Fans of Kate Gordon’s CBCA award-winning Aster’s Good, Right Things will thoroughly enjoy this window into the world of Aster’s best friend, Xavier.
Xavier lives with depression or, the black dog, as he calls it. Strategies like daily affirmations seem to help but the feelings of hopelessness never really go away. Though Xavier wants to “fix” things – his mental health, his broken family, to name just a few – he learns to instead savour the slices of life in the meantime, the moments of light between the struggles. And who can’t relate? In these unprecedented times, so many of us, like Xavier, have been living in the meantime, waiting for the sun to shine again as we adjust to an ever-changing “new normal”.
As each person’s struggle with mental illness is unique, it can be difficult to capture an illness like depression on the page, but Xavier’s experience with mental illness is both moving and credible. So, too, is the author’s desire to move away from the language of “curing” what are often lifelong struggles.
Books like Aster’s Good, Right Things and Xavier in the Meantime provide a great jumping off point for conversations with about real-life issues, particularly those that may be difficult to broach, like mental illness and animal rights, explored here. By engaging with a book’s story and characters, their complexities and challenges, and the choices they make, young readers learn to process their emotional responses as they strive to develop a sense of the world.
Just as Xavier was a saviour of sorts for Aster in the first book, Aster is there for Xavier in his struggles, offering deeper insights into their friendship. The characters of Aunt Noni and Indigo are also back, along with some new ones. In fact, the author’s next book, Indigo in the Storm, revisits their world. So jump in now and get acquainted!
Reviewed by Maura Pierlot