Miss Riki’s Review:
Jason Milwaukee has always loved his best friend Sunshine. She understands what it’s like to be an alphabet and has always been an important part of his life. When Sunshine goes missing, Jason knows something has gone terribly wrong. Finding out the truth behind her disappearance requires him to fight with not only the compelling voices in his head, but also with getting the world to listen to him. You see, being schizophrenic means he is unpredictable, and to Agent Mercer of the FBI, that means he is a suspect. Jason knows he would never hurt Sunshine, but the voices are preventing him from remembering the events leading up to her disappearance. With time running out and people pointing fingers, Jason must push through the fog of his own mind in order to find the truth.
This book blew me away. Told in first person from the point of view of Jason “Freak” Milwaukee, the narration is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Jason is a schizophrenic who rides the short bus and relies heavily on the safety of a relationship with his two best friends, Sunshine and Drip. Jason is by all means the most unreliable of narrators as he battles with the voices in his head, but he is a compelling and unique voice.
The mystery of the novel unfolds at an excellent pace, with enough clues to progress the story and some excellent red herrings placed to throw the reader off track. When Sunshine goes missing, everyone is suspect, including Jason, who remembers only that Sunshine was trying to tell him something important before she disappeared. His mind is mired down with guilt and the ever-present voices, leaving him unable to piece together the events leading up to Sunshine’s disappearance. The worst part is that Jason actually has all of the information he needs to solve the mystery, but his head gets in the way.
Being inside Jason’s head is at times almost exhausting as he fights his own mind. I felt such compassion for these kids who don’t seem to have a voice of their own. Because of their extreme mental health conditions, they are often dismissed and disregarded, and in this novel, Jason is even considered suspect. This book is more than a story about a missing girl. Watching the development of the relationship between Jason and Agent Mercer shows that it is also a story about people with disabilities finding their voice and becoming better understood. Susan Vaught has given a compelling voice to a very misunderstood condition.