I recently listened to the audio book The Law of Loving Others by Kate Axelrod and enjoyed this emotionally charged, realistic novel about a teen girl dealing with her mother’s diagnosis of schizophrenia.
Emma is in her junior year at a boarding school in Pennsylvania, heading home to the metro NY area for winter break with her boyfriend, Daniel. Emma doesn’t have a lot of close friends at school, but she and Daniel connected at the end of September and have been inseparable ever since. Emma is looking forward to a fun break split between time with her parents, time with her best friend, Annie, and trips to visit Daniel in Manhattan.
When Emma arrives home that day, though, something strange is going on. Her mother is acting oddly, first thinking that someone somehow snuck into her closet and swapped out all her clothes and later, that damaging rays are bombarding the house. Emma is freaked out because her mother has always been a calm, rational force in her life, always there for Emma. She tries to talk to Daniel, Annie and her father, but they just reassure her everything will be fine.
Within days, her mother has been taken to the hospital, and Emma learns a startling secret: that her mother has had schizophrenia since she was a young woman (normally controlled by medications) and that she is now suffering a schizophrenic break. Suddenly, Emma’s whole world feels like it is spinning out of control. Not only is her mother very sick, but this is the first she’s heard of her diagnosis – or even that there was a problem at all. Is her whole childhood a lie?
The rest of the novel is focused on Emma’s response to this crisis and her attempts to try to make sense of it all. She worries that Daniel won’t understand, that he won’t be there for her. She worries about how much to tell other people. And, she worries about the cute boy she meets at the mental hospital, a young man named Phil whom she vaguely knows from Annie’s brother. Phil is in the hospital visiting his twin brother, and he seems to be the only person in the world who truly understands what Emma is going through. She is also worried that she might develop schizophrenia herself, once she finds out there is a genetic component to the illness.
Coincidentally, this is one of several teen/YA audio books I have listened to in the last few months dealing with mental illness, and they have all been very moving and educational for me. In this case, Emma doesn’t always make good choices or select healthy coping mechanisms, but I thought it was a very realistic portrayal of how a teen girl might respond in such an unthinkable situation. The Law of Loving Others is an emotionally powerful novel about a teen trying to cope with a life-changing situation.
NOTE: This novel is best for older teens or young adults, as it includes plenty of drinking, drug use, sex, and adult language.
Other teen/YA novels dealing with mental illness:
Revolution by Jennifer DonnellyI Was Here by Gayle FormanFalling Into Place by Amy ZhangForgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick