In this tale of an unconventional love triangle, Averett (The Rhyming Season) explores what goes on in the mind of a rebellious teenager suffering from schizophreniform disorder, a short-term type of schizophrenia. Tired of his meddling parents and doctor, 14-year-old Cameron Galloway wants to be free of medication and the bad feelings it produces (“It’s my own life I have to live. Don’t I get to choose?”), so he secretly stops taking his pills. As a result, Cameron starts hearing voices again; one belongs to a girl, who apparently likes him. Around the same time, Cameron meets a real girl in the Emotionally Disturbed Program (EDP) at school, who desperately needs a friend. As the pressure to choose one girl over the other increases, the line between reality and fantasy blurs for Cameron, with potentially dangerous consequences. Without passing judgment, Averett addresses the issue of free choice versus protective care, sharing the pros and cons of Cameron’s decision to refuse medication and exercise his rights. Readers will have no trouble recognizing the impact of Cameron’s hallucinations and his burning need for independence. Ages 14–up. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"Without passing judgment, Averett addresses the issue of free choice versus protective care. . . Readers will have no trouble recognizing the impact of Cameron's hallucinations and his burning need for independence."
"Cameron's first-person narration allows access to an absorbing glimpse of schizophrenic behavior. . . . Thoughtful and eye-opening."
"This is a well-written, taut, and empathetic novel that provides readers with an unnerving vicarious experience."
—School Library Journal
"This novel is a nuanced treatment of a difficult topic, sustained by narrative drive."
"Averett does a good job of developing Cameron's situations in a way that helps the reader understand the true depth of the struggle that Cameron is facing; he uses language that makes the internal conflict explode off the page. This is a raw, real, quick read that looks into darkness of mental illness."
—VOYA, 4Q 3P J S
"[Averett's] accessible writing makes Cameron and his struggle vivid to young readers, and they'll find this an eye-opening walk in somebody else's shoes."
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
VOYA - Karen Jensen
What happens if Cameron simply decides to stop taking the pills? Cameron is a fourteen-year-old boy with schizophreniform disorder, a subset of schizophrenia. Wanting more control over his life, Cameron decides to experiment with not taking medication, which leads him to spiral out of control. In his head, he hears a variety of voices: the intelligent, kindly professor; his "girlfriend," a comforting and exciting voice; and a new voice that is turning out to be the strongest of them alland the scariest. In a special class for those with emotional issues, Cameron befriends Nina, who suffers from depression. Together the two of them run away, beginning a downward spiral that ends in tragedy and forces them both to make important decisions about their conditions. Cameron And The Girls is a realistic look at a life with mental illness. Although brief in its exploration, this is a gritty look into a broken mind. At one point the bad voice is urging Cameron to have sex with Nina, whether she wants to or not, so this is not a delicate look at mental illness; it is visceral. There are moments when you clearly see Cameron struggling to regain control of his mind, failing, and doing things against his will. He talks about his feet turning into cement and being unable to move, for example. Averett does a good job of developing Cameron's situations in a way that helps the reader understand the true depth of the struggle that Cameron is facing; he uses language that makes the internal conflict explode off the page. This is a raw, real, quick read that looks into the darkness of mental illness. Reviewer: Karen Jensen
Children's Literature - Keri Collins Lewis
Cameron Galloway, like many fourteen-year-old boys, wants to live life on his own terms without interference from anyone. To do that, he elects to stop taking the medication that controls his schizophrenia, because he believes he can control his behavior and the voices in his head. Cameron is familiar with the primary voice he hears, a wise male he calls The Professor, but after being off of his medication for several days, he begins to hear a new voice, The Girl. She flirts with him, tells him he is perfect and wants to be his girlfriend. She makes him feel warm, safe, and alive. At about the same time he hears The Girl, Nina arrives in his class for students who are emotionally disturbed. Soon Cameron cannot distinguish between the voice in his head and the real girl, whose depression and emotional neediness require more than Cameron can give. The longer Cameron is off of his medication, the more erratic his behavior becomes, and soon a third voice, a dark and sinister character bent on Cameron's destruction, pushes him into dangerous situations. Cameron and Nina both spiral out of control in a desperate bid for independence, love, and acceptance. Averett translates his experience as a clinical psychologist into an authentic and compelling look at challenging psychological disorders, and the struggles of those who must live with the diagnoses. This young adult novel contributes significantly to the body of literature depicting teens suffering from mental illness. It will provide insight to the teachers, administrators, and parents who strive to help while also aiding teens with these or other issues requiring treatment. Reviewer: Keri Collins Lewis
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Fourteen-year-old Cameron is struggling to reclaim his reality, if only he knew what it was. He has schizophreniform disorder, an unusual form of temporary schizophrenia that young people often grow out of. Medication controls the symptoms but alternately leaves victims feeling flat and abandoned. Cam's internal companions include two male voices, one that is a professorial, well-meaning guardian, and the other, a goading and calculating menace. An exciting new female voice is making his head spin. She's alluring and seductive, and is complicating his life. Cam is in conflict between taking his medication or forsaking the familiar, friendly, and flirtatious voices when he doesn't. He has been admitted to the psych ward twice since he was 11. Now he's in the EDP class at his junior high school. While his family frets over whether he is taking his meds, Cam is caught in a love triangle: a clinically depressed girl in his class who is clearly smitten with him and the manipulative Siren voice in his head that is gaining persuasive power. Cam's menacing alterego urges him to stop taking the pills and thus to feel vibrant, invincible, and daring. But not taking them propels him to a tipping point; the bad voice begins to dominate and Cam's behavior veers toward the dangerous. The teen's narrative portrays a scary battle, alternating between euphoria and terror. This is a well-written, taut, and empathetic novel that provides readers with an unnerving vicarious experience.—Alison Follos, formerly at North Country School, Lake Placid, NY
In an engaging if predictable cautionary tale, 14-year-old Cameron stops taking medications for his schizophreniform disorder and finds that his choice brings unwanted consequences. Off his medication, Cameron hears voices. He likes having some of the voices in his head, such as the even-keeled, informative Professor and the alluring Girl, a newer arrival. (They are helpfully represented, as are the other voices, by recognizably different typefaces.) His desire to hold onto the voices makes his quitting his meds believable and compelling. The central ambiguity--the way some aspects of Cameron's unmedicated state feel desirable and important, even while others are confusing or frightening--is maintained almost to the end. A new, intimidating voice Cameron calls the Other Guy urges Cameron to take risks and be cruel, and readers feel the exhilaration Cameron experiences at obeying the Other Guy's commands. Cameron's parents and sister are realistically drawn, with believably flawed reactions to Cameron's condition, as is his friend Nina, a classmate with depression from the Emotionally Disturbed Program. A pat ending, however, undermines the question of whether Cameron ought to be allowed to go without medication, as does an afterword in which the author, a clinical psychologist, speculates that "one day, Cameron might very well be free of the disease forever, which is his fondest hope." Complex questions are carefully presented but answered too simply in this nevertheless intriguing exploration. (Fiction. 12-16)