Sunday, October 1, 2023

Shout Out Loud To Save Yourself, To Save Others

 Very early this morning, before daylight, as thunder rumbled for hours, I finished Louder Than Hunger (Candlewick Press, March 4, 2024) written by John Schu.  Stretched beside me was my loving and loyal canine companion, Mulan.  I was grateful for her calming presence as my soul struggled with Jake’s (and John’s) story.  I wonder what she thought of my crying off and on for hours.

Honored to receive this galley, now filled
 with markers of powerful poetic words.

Before this novel-in-verse begins, a letter addressed to Dear Readers is written to us by Kate DiCamillo.  She speaks of thirteen-year-old Jake and his heart and his eating disorder.  She is right when she says reading this story will change you.  Jake’s story is John’s story.  John knows the power of story.  He opened his heart so others can live their best lives.  For this, we readers are grateful.

Jake is struggling with who he is and where he fits into his world and the world as a whole.  His middle school years have been horrible due to unrelenting bullying.  Now during his eighth grade year the VOICE that started in seventh grade reiterates the verbal abuse of those bullies.  It tells him one negative statement after another.  He wishes he could disappear, so the VOICE helps him to stop eating.  Then, he can fade away.

Spending the weekends with his Grandma is the thin thread which tethers Jake to this world.  They are soulmates, sharing a love of television shows, broadway musicals and driving in her red car. There are visits to the public library and the statue in the park Jake names Frieden, a welcoming woman with an outstretched hand, guarding four cherubs. Jakes’s grandmother does notice his thinness and reminds him to take care of her boy.

As part of a school community service project, Jake provides company and reads aloud to residents at a nursing home.  One of those residents, Ms. Burns, a blind woman and former teacher of thirty-five years, asks to hold Jake’s hand one day as he is reading.  She instinctively knows something is not right despite Jake’s denials.  A phone call changes everything.

For nearly a year Jake is in more than out of therapy at Whispering Pines where his eating disorder can be treated.  We are there with him every step of the way as John writes these poems with exquisite pacing and placement of words and letters.  We experience the struggles of Jake as he navigates relationships with other patients, dietitians, therapists and a strictly regimented lifestyle.  It is heart wrenching to witness and share this journey, but his courage to continue is a shared triumph.  

In Louder Than Hunger John Schu, through the character Jake, allows us to see how a teen can descend into a disorder due to bullying without the necessary parental support.  We are given an inside look at therapy.  This removes any perceived stigma attached to the word therapy.  I believe you will find yourselves deeply moved by John’s letter to readers at the close of the book.  Resources and acknowledgements follow that letter.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds both needed, poignant, and heart-rending, too. I'm glad to read what you thought, Margie. Thanks to you and certainly thanks to John for his caring ways.