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Wild Roses, Deb Caletti


Let’s face it. Mental illness is embarrassing. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t look down on people too ill to hold it together, who cry while looking out the window and don’t bother getting fully dressed before going out. We’d be patient and understanding, instead of letting out our fear and uneasiness with the same kind of jokes we make about funeral directors. But it does make you uneasy.

Narrated by seventeen-year-old Cassie Morgan, this novel follows the downward spiral of Dino Cavelli, her stepfather and a renowned musician/composer, and its effects on her family and his student, Ian, whom she befriends. Cassie discusses frankly the benefits and downfalls of being a child of divorced parents, her mother’s relationship with Dino, and her growing concern over Dino’s instability.

The title of this book refers to a painting of Van Gogh’s which was finished during his most creative period, shortly before his suicide. Cassie makes reference to painters, musicians, composers, and other artistic types who have suffered from mental illness and other disabilities, remarking on the effect that this must have had on their loved ones and others around them. She considers the correlation of artistic skills and drive with the mental instability which she sees in her stepfather, a correlation which is not often addressed in such a skilled manner in teen fiction.

There are a few spelling and grammatical errors which mar the flow of the narrative. Cassie goes through a fairly dramatic change in her feelings towards Dino towards the end of the novel which I read somewhat incredulously. Still, it is a fast-paced read which teen girls will enjoy.

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