In recent years, there has been a boom of books centered around a main character with some kind of mental illness, whether it be depression or even antisocial personality disorder. These novels are riding the waves of recent events that have the general public wanting more awareness for mental disorders. Though, stories are often muddled with the romanticism and sensationalism of mental health issues.
Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton is unlike many other books I read. It is a humorous and honest story that delivers a beautiful narrative through the therapy journals of Adam, a teenager with schizophrenia.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality. Although it is not as common as other mental disorders, the symptoms can be very disabling.
The plot revolves around Adam starting an experimental drug trial that will help him ignore some aspects of his symptoms, such as hallucinations. With his transfer to a new high school where no one knows about his condition, Adam is able to live a more freeing life. The fictional drug ToZaPrex, however, gradually fails, but he tries his best to not let anyone become aware of his schizophrenia.
Adam’s self-aware sense of humor allows readers to understand him as a regular person and not just someone who is defined by a mental illness. I felt the need to root for him, laugh with him, and get to know him a little bit more. I wanted him to succeed, with or without ToZaPrex.
Seeing that Walton is not a doctor and has not personally experienced schizophrenia, she did an incredible amount of research in order to make this book as sincere as it can be. As Walton’s debut novel, her writing style and the way she portrays Adam feels so much more rich and honest than other novelists who write in the Young Adult (YA) genre. She even greatly informs readers about the illness by debunking several stereotypes and explaining the difference between positive symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions, thought disorders, movement disorders and negative symptoms, like apathy, difficulty beginning/sustaining activities, reduced speaking.
All in all, this book is a great read if you want something with just a tad bit of self-deprecation and a load of truthful comedy. Words on Bathroom Walls contrasts many YA novels with its ability to paint Adam as a relatable and realistic character.