From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up–At age six, Jason's mentally ill father tried to bury him alive. Now 15, Jason is left alone to care for the man. They live in squalor, and the teen is in constant fear for his father's (and his own) safety. When he begins to act erratically at school, he's sent to group therapy. There he meets three other kids with screwed-up families. Though he begins to trust and love them, he keeps his father's illness a secret. When the truth comes out, his father is hospitalized and Jason is sent to foster care. He discovers, guiltily, what it's like to be a little normal. The chemistry among members of the group calls to mind John Barnes's extraordinary Tales of the Madman Underground (Viking, 2009), and these characters sparkle. Nolan writes with her usual combination of ease and gravitas. The action moves briskly, especially in light of the serious mood. Jason's voice, on its own, is natural–teens will sympathize easily. Unfortunately, he also narrates via an annoying and superfluous cast of imaginary friends, including Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith Show. Instead of edgy, this device comes off as gimmicky and disrupts an otherwise intelligent, moving story.Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library
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*Starred Review* Jason, 15, lives a precarious life with his mentally ill father, who thinks he is an Argonaut and wears ttinfoil ear guards as he prepares for imminent attack from the Furies. When Jason was 6, his father tried to bury him alive, and his nightmares of suffocation continue to haunt him. Now that his mother has died from a stroke, Jason struggles to care for his needy father alone and with few resources. To help him cope, he creates an imaginary audience that includes Crazy Glue, Sexy Lady, and sympathetic, nurturing Aunt Bee, of Mayberry fame. There’s a laugh track, too, and Jason directly addresses the reader. In less-capable hands, these narrative experiments could have fallen flat, but Nolan skillfully uses the story’s intriguing structure to maneuver the minefield that is Jason’s life. As Jason finds support in group therapy, social services intervention, and a foster family, the voices in his head recede, and he becomes less fearful that he, too, is going crazy. Nolan leavens this haunting but hopeful story with spot-on humor and a well-developed cast of characters, and she shows with moving clarity the emotional costs of mental illness, especially on teens forced to parent their own parents. Grades 7-10. --Cindy Dobrez