Thursday, February 08, 2024

Teen/YA Review: I Am Not Alone

I'm a longtime fan of Francisco X. Stork, who wrote (my reviews at the links) Irises, Marcello in the Real World, The Memory of Light, Disappeared, and its sequel, Illegal. Like The Memory of Light, his latest novel,  I Am Not Alone, provides a realistic, enlightening picture of what it feels like to struggle with mental illness. I was engrossed by this excellent audio book.

Alberto is an undocumented older teen, living with his sister, Lupe, and her baby in Brooklyn. They live with Lupe's abusive boyfriend, Wayne. Alberto wants her to leave Wayne, but they rely on him and live in his apartment. Alberto works hard for Wayne, doing maintenance and repair work on the apartments he manages, and sends most of the money he earns back home to Mexico, to help support their family, including a sick sister. His real talent--and love--is for pottery. Lately, though, Alberto has begun to hear a man's voice talking to him, and it's saying disturbing things. It's not like thoughts in his head, but like a voice outside of him that no one else can hear. Even more strange is that it talks to him in English, while he still thinks mostly in Spanish. One day, Wayne sends Alberto to do a job in a nice apartment in another building, and he meets Grace. She is about his age but seems to have a perfect life. She's an excellent student, on track to be valedictorian and attend Princeton pre-med, and she has a wealthy, perfect-seeming boyfriend. Beneath the surface, though, Grace has been struggling ever since her parents' divorce. She's no longer sure about anything in her life or even if she's on the right path. Alberto and Grace meet that day and become friends, each confiding their fears to the other, as Alberto's voice gets more urgent, trying to force him to do terrible things, and harder to ignore.

As with all of Stork's novels, this one fully immerses the reader/listener in the characters' lives, here showing what it feels like to deal with the disturbing voices Alberto hears (which an author's note explains might be schizophrenia or any of several other mental illnesses). The topic is handled here with compassion, as are Grace's problems. Alberto's undocumented status is simply a fact here, that complicates his getting the help he needs, rather than a main subject. The two new friends find comfort and support in each other during difficult times for both of them. There is also plenty of suspense here, as Alberto starts to have memory black-outs and ends up running from the police who suspect him of a horrific crime. All of that tension, though, comes to a satisfying conclusion for both main characters. The audio production was excellent, with two narrators reading Alberto's and Grace's chapters. I was fully engaged in this moving, suspenseful story, and I learned a lot about mental illness.

(Another outstanding YA novel about this kind of mental illness is Challenger Deep by Neal Schusterman (my review at the link), based in part on the author's son's own experiences with schizoaffective disorder and accompanied by drawings from his son that show his declining mental health.)

320 pages, Scholastic

Scholastic Audio

This book fits in the following 2024 Reading Challenges:


Alphabet Soup Challenge - I

Diversity Challenge

Literary Escapes Challenge - New York


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Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/ordownload it from Audible. The sample is from the start of the novel and gives a great introduction to Alberto's life.


Or get this audiobook from and support local bookstores (same audio sample here, too).


Print and e-book from Amazon.


You can buy the book through, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!



  1. I have really enjoyed Stork's novels that I read in the past and this one sounds fantastic. Onto the TBR list it goes!