Written by a first-time novelist, this is a gripping young adult novel dealing with a mother’s mental illness and its tragic impact on a family. Rikki, a junior in an all-girls high school, is an excellent student and talented dancer and choreographer with many friends. No one but her beloved older sister, Daniella, has any idea of their horrendous home situation. Their artistic mother had been previously identified as bi-polar, and when she is on medication, her condition is well controlled. When she is off medication, her behavior makes her dangerous to herself and her family. The girls try very hard to cope and to protect their brother, and they expend a lot of energy covering up the realities of their lives. Things spin out of control and their lives shatter beyond their abilities to handle. Rikki’s emotional stability is threatened so severely that she finds it difficult to concentrate in school or to keep up relationships even with close friends; in addition she is unable to pray with the other girls or on her own. The girls are fortunate to have competent and caring adults in school who intervene to help them.
Written in an extremely compelling style by a social worker and dealing with difficult real-life issues, this is painful reading. The author’s stated goal is “to bring a new level of emotional intensity to young adult Jewish literature.” The sisters are clearly Orthodox and live in an Orthodox world, but the content is universal.