What to Read After... Dear Zoo 14/06/21
Finding a Voice
Jo's life feels like a precarious balancing act, walking the tightrope of her mother's fragile mental health. Struggling to maintain a facade of normality, she knows that the tiniest slip can send things spiraling out of control at home. Meanwhile at school, her atypical home life has not gone unnoticed, forming an agonizing rift between Jo and her peers, and leaving her feeling safest when she's invisible to all.
Then she meets Chris, a disabled and non-verbal teenager in the school's special education wing. In him she finds a friend she feels she can really talk to and a vital outlet for some of the colossal pressure she is under. As a ward of the state, Chris lives in a residential home and appears to have no form of communication and negligible quality of life. Jo becomes fixated by the urge to try to help him, culminating in an impulsive decision which has potentially disastrous consequences.
Kim Hood shows a genuine understanding of mental health and disability issues, as she efficiently weaves the themes together in an engaging narrative whilst avoiding this ever becoming an 'issue' book. The cast of characters demonstrates that adult and young people alike can misread situations, make mistakes and generally demonstrate all sorts of human flaws.
This is an engaging story about the two-way nature of friendship and the risks of making assumptions. The overriding message is uplifting, whilst also leaving the reader with a powerful reminder that good intentions aren't always enough.