Michael Schofield’s nonfiction account of his daughter’s schizophrenia has similar appeal to titles that have drawn teen readers in the past. Think Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen, Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel, A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar and perhaps especially Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Scheff. Next week I will be reviewing Brain on Fire, Susannah Cahalan’s fascinating account of her own “descent into madness.”
SCHOFIELD, Michael. January First: A Child’s Descent into Madness and Her Father’s Struggle to Save Her. 291p. Crown. 2012. Tr $25. ISBN 978-0-307-71908-9. LC 2011049462.
Adult/High School–The Schofields knew the importance of keeping their extraordinary young daughter’s mind stimulated. Every night the couple would tag-team, running January from the zoo to McDonald’s PlayPlace to the ball pit at Ikea, an attempt to exhaust her mentally so she would sleep. Jani began talking at eight months, and by the time she was three she was computing math problems in her head and quizzing her parents on the periodic table. Michael believed his daughter would grow up to be “a gift to humanity.” He also believed that her over the top imagination and frequent violent outbursts were a side effect of a brilliant mind. But three-year-old Jani was not merely playing; her imaginary friends were very real to her, as was the bizarre world she visited. Teens will be fascinated by the almost unbelievable true story of a child diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of six, and a father’s devotion to the point of single-minded obsession. Michael’s love for Jani clouded his thinking; he convinced his wife to have another child, hoping that their son would share their daughter’s world. Despite heavy doses of anti-psychotic medication, Jani remained hallucinogenic and increasingly violent, especially toward her brother and mother. A “solution” involved renting two apartments, one for Jani and one for her brother. January First is an enthralling, chilling read, a real life horror story that rivals anything at the multiplex.–Paula J. Gallagher, Baltimore County Public Library, MD