I was immediately drawn to this book because of the title and the gorgeous cover. I've been loving this new trend I've seen in books of having very unique titles. Titles that are very interesting to read and draw you in. And this cover is just so lovely.
It was so cute and so interesting to look at. And anything about poets or poetry sucks me in immediately. This book is about a Whitman-obsessed boy named James Whitman. James struggles with depression and anxiety in a very stifling family. To cope he recites Walt Whitman every morning, hugs trees, and writes poetry so he could learn to celebrate himself as Walt Whitman celebrated himself with a resounding, defiant YAWP!
James loves his sister Jorie who for some reason has been kicked out of her house, a problem that grips James as he tries to continue through his junior year in an explosive, but also apathetic household ran by distant parents.
Maybe it's because it's a subject that hits so close to home, or because it feels incredibly relatable to me, but I love books about depression and struggle. It's an area that is so important and so crucial to understand. It was frustrating in this book to watch people misunderstand James when he tried to express his depression. His parents, in a very heartbreaking scene, told him that he didn't have a reason to be as sad as he was. He lives in a decent house with clothes and food and his health. James starts to believe them and questions why he feels the way he does.
What I loved about this book was that it let you know, in a very nonjudgmental and very encouraging way that it is OK to feel depressed even though your circumstances aren't by right the worst. Depression can happen to anyone and that mental illness is very scary and very hard. If you are struggling with depression, this book will make you feel very supported. I appreciated that a lot. I can't wait to give this book to a few of my friends who struggle this way.
This book was written so so well. This is an author who I will watch for any time a new book will be released. He had the perfect mixture of gentility with words in sensitive moments and searing sarcasm in others. More often, these both happened in the same moment which made these characters and their speech feel so real. This book felt like how I talk and how my friends talk. James was so cute and such a tender soul. He's a character I cared about instantly.
"I yawp most mornings to irritate my father, the Brute.
'Yawp! Yawp!' It moves him out of the bathroom faster.
He responds with the gruff 'All right.' He dislikes things that seem like fun.
I do not yawp like Walt Whitman for fun. Ever since the Brute literally threw my older sister, Jorie, our of the house. I yawp at him because he hates it. My father says reciting Walt Whitman is impractical, irrational. My father says even reading Walt Whitman is a waste of time, despite the fact that we share his last name. My father says Walt Whitman never made a dime, which is not true. I looked it up. Not on Wikipedia but in a book that also said Whitman used to write reviews for Leaves of Grass- his own book!- under fake names.
Who does that? Walt does!
The perfect poet for me. I'm a depressed, anxious kid."
This boy tugged at my heart. He was so sweet and so gentle and so lost. He reminded me a lot of Charlie from Perks of Being a Wallflower. Either we all know someone like James or we are him. Luckily this book is amazing for both types of person.
So yes, James won me over. But it was Roskos' writing that sank into my mind. He was so honest and so so witty. He has such a fun way with words. Two chapters into the book, James breaks his arm while trying to save a bird... or... a sort of bird. People won't leave him alone about his accident and he responds with:
"At least I'm famous, right? (How many people in history have thought 'At least I'm famous!' for doing something stupid? Probably tons, thanks to YouTube."
I was reading this on my break at work and laughed out loud, which made for a very uncomfortable situation. My favorite situation. He was so clever and fun to read. This book flew by. I couldn't put it down!
My other favorite passage in this book was clearly a reference to hipster kids, my people (HA):
"By seven-forty-five I've narrowed my outfit choices down, but every time I put on a shirt I feel like a dork. The arm cast doesn't help. I want to look normal, inconspicuous, approachable, but also somewhat invisible. I have a black Radiohead shirt with a bunch of white houses on it. It suggests I have good taste in music but also that I need to let everyone know I have good taste in music."
I love our generation. Social media has made life so hard and so awkward and judgmental. It's all such fun, just like this book.
But within the fun, there are some very striking moments of sorrow that are just lovely.
"I know my parents aren't swinging by her apartment for coffee, cake, and a quick smack. She and I seem to be poisoned with sadness in our blood."
That sentence feels like depression. You can't explain where this pain generates from, it's just there seeping through your veins.
Do not miss out on this book. It's delicate and light, but also has such a wonderful subdued power behind it that will leave you wanting more. It was a perfect little read.
Until next time, happy reading! I'd love to hear any recommendations you have for me, or your thoughts about anything I've read. Leave your comments below; I'd love to hear from you.