The Opposite of Music by Janet Ruth Young is a riveting read. How does a family deal with a loved one suffering from debilitating disease? This book should be read by everyone.
I taught reluctant and struggling readers. For every holiday, I would receive gift cards for book stores in the area. I would go in search of additional Young Adult novels that could be added to our classroom library. I would scrutinize each book carefully. If the book didn’t hook me in the first few pages, back on the shelf it went. The Opposite of Music caught my attention. It was the cover that drew me closer. A troubled looking young adult, head hanging down, sitting alone with his back against the wall, was irresistible. It turned out that The Opposite of Music was a book for me, not my students.
Billy and his family begin to notice that something is wrong with Dad. Dad cannot focus. Dad has no appetite and begins to lose weight. Dad can no longer concentrate to read, carry on a conversation, or watch TV. Dad wanders the house at night because he cannot sleep. Dad’s colleagues are concerned about his performance at work.
Dad is diagnosed with major depression. Medications are prescribed. The side effects of the medications are debilitating. When one medication fails to relieve Dad’s symptoms, the doctor prescribes another. All medications prove to be ineffective in relieving Dad’s symptoms.
The family decides they will try to help Dad on their own. Dad is never left alone. Someone must be with Dad at all times. Suicide is a concern. Everyone’s life is turned upside down. The kids not longer are carefree because they are now caretakers. Mom worries that her frequent absences from work will cause her to lose her job. Dad is not working, so money is an issue. Dad feels guilty because he has disrupted the lives of his wife and children.
Comprehension increases if the reader can connect to the text they are reading. Connections include text to self, text to text, and text to world. For me, text to self was the major connection to The Opposite of Music . I suffered from major depression for many years. I wondered, how on earth did Janet Ruth Young, the author, have the ability to describe the signs and symptoms of this horrific illness in such great detail? Surely, she must have fallen victim to this dreaded disease. Nope. She researched this illness by studying psychological journals and other publications. She has to be one heck of a writer to make her readers feel she too has experienced this illness at some point in her life. I did send her an email, and I asked her how she was able to write such an accurate account of depressive illness. I am waiting for her reply.
A Similar Novel
Ned Vizzini wrote It’s Kind of a Funny Story . He actually did suffer from major depression when he was in high school. I understand why his descriptions of the illness are so accurate in his novel. For me, reading The Opposite of Music mirrored my struggle, and the effect it had on my family. My eighth grade students loved It’s Kind of a Funny Story because of its teen character. The Opposite of Music has an adult as the sufferer, so many of the the kids couldn’t get into this one. Both books are Young Adult Novels.