Book Review: A Bitter Pill to Swallow by: Tiffany Gholar

Publisher:  Pronoun

Publication Date:  January 1, 2016

Origins:  From Author for Review

Synopsis:  On the edge of the Chicago medical district, the Harrison School for Exceptional Youth looks like a castle in a snow globe. Janina has been there since she was ten years old, and now she's fourteen. She feels so safe inside its walls that she's afraid to leave. 

Devante's parents bring him there after a tragedy leaves him depressed and suicidal. Even though he's in a different place, he can't escape the memories that come flooding back when he least expects them. 

Dr. Gail Thomas comes to work there after quitting her medical residency. Frustrated and on the verge of giving up on her dreams, she sees becoming a counselor as her last chance to put her skills to the test. 

When he founded the school, Dr. Lutkin designed its unique environment to be a place that would change the students' lives. He works hard as the keeper of other people's secrets, though he never shares any of his own. 

But everything changes late in the winter of 1994 when these four characters' lives intersect in unexpected ways. None of them will ever be the same.

Review: The Harrison School for Exceptional Youth is a world apart from traditional mental health facilities. Rather than drugs and discipline, there are art therapy classes and life skills classes. In charge of the Harrison School for Exceptional Youth is Dr. Lutkin, a man who wanted to create a unique and fulfilling environment which would allow the students to grow and learn to cope with their illnesses in a way which lets them lead productive lives in the outside world. Janina has been a student for four years and is afraid to leave because of how she is treated at home and at her former school for her creativity and different approach to life. Devante has recently come to the school after witnessing the death of a close friend, leaving him with PTSD, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Together with Dr. Gail Thomas, a new addition to the school, Dr. Lutkin strives to do his best for these kids. A BITTER PILL TO SWALLOW is a moving story about mental illness, genius, hope, and healing. The characters were so real; you could feel their pain and rejoice in their discovery of happiness. I feel a lot of kids should read this to know they aren’t alone in the world and they can find their own path to happiness.

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