Cover of Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton. A wall covered with heavy graffiti

About the Book

Title: Words on Bathroom Walls
Published: 2017

Cover Story: Paging Mr. Pollock
Drinking Buddy: Hell Yes
Testosterone Level: High
Talky Talk: The Voices
Bonus Factors: Sandy Hook, Catholic School
Bromance Status: Real Friend


Cover Story: Paging Mr. Pollock

To be honest, I never felt a real connection between the book and the title (some random bathroom graffiti that the title character occasionally notices). The crazy paint certainly catches the eye, though.

The Deal:

Adam Petrazelli has some rather odd friends. Rebecca, the Amazonian girl whose moods mirror his own. Jason, who’s always buck naked. The 1920s mobsters who have gang wars in his house. The bickering British duo. The choir of angels.

You see, Adam has hard core schizophrenia. He sees and hears things that no one else can. He’s starting over in a private Catholic school where no one knows who he is. He’s taking a new medication that might help him gain control. He’s seeing a therapist. In fact, that’s what this book is. He refuses to talk to his doctor, but he does keep a journal to answer the doc’s questions.

All Adam wants to do is not be noticed. His father abandoned him. His mother is overwhelmed. His step-father treats him like a bomb about to explode. If he could just blend into the crowd at his new school, maybe he could graduate without incident.

But then he meets Maya. And Maya likes him. Soon, they’re dating.

How, exactly, do you tell your girlfriend that you have trouble distinguishing between reality and hallucinations? Should you tell her?

Drinking Buddy: Hell Yes

Two pints of beer cheersing

On the surface, Adam has it all. He’s tall, strapping, and good looking. He’s a gourmet cook who can whip up delicious meals and enjoys doing it. He’s a good friend, who hangs out with nerdy Dwight and stands up to Ian, the rich jerk. Who wouldn’t want to hang with him?

Except for, you know. Adam knows the score. He realizes he’s sick in the head, he suffers no delusions (sorry) about the state of things. The problem is, it’s not always easy to ignore the invisible host, and it’s not always easy to tell what’s real and what’s not. Is that music coming from the speakers or from his head? That cute girl who just walked in, can anyone else see her? Does he jump into the pool to save that drowning girl, knowing full well she may not be real? In one scene, Maya bangs on Adam’s window at night. They sneak out and run to the park, dancing and laughing until she suddenly vanishes and Adam realizes he’s been following a figment around town at night.

He knows things will end badly. He’s just trying to put it off as long as possible.

Testosterone Level: High

Maya is a tough, serious, Filipino-American girl who takes a shine to Adam when he saves her from drowning (hey, she was real!). Adam is pleased that she’s attracted to his eccentric behavior and cooking skills. They get close…and closer. Just like any teenage couple.

But is he playing right by her? The medication seems to be working, but it’s not infallible. Once, at the movies, Adam thinks he sees Nazi soldiers attacking the audience from the screen. In a panic, he grabs Maya and pulls her to the floor. She totally misinterprets this, and things end rather nicely. But Adam knows he’s been lucky. He’s going to slip up. She’s going to find out.

Especially with that prick Ian waiting to take Adam down a peg or two.

Talky Talk: The Voices

This was an incredible first-person account of someone who knows he’s lost his grip on reality and is just trying to navigate the real world. He tries to ignore his imaginary friends. But when a guy that only you can see asks you what time it is every ten seconds, how long can you ignore him before you shout “It’s 12:30!” to a silent room? Adam knows he has no reason to get up and run. But…he must. He must run. Now. As fast as he can. The medication helps a little, but it’s not without side effects, such as facial tics and grimaces. His stepfather’s mother treats Adam like a monster, brandishing her pepper spray whenever he’s around and cheerfully suggesting that he be institutionalized.

Can someone like Adam every hope for a normal life? A job, a house, and maybe someone to love him? Is that a lot to ask?

Bonus Factor: School Shooting

Masked man pointing shotgun at the viewer

So this book, which takes the form of journal entries for Adam’s therapist, is dated 2012. I couldn’t figure out why the author chose such a specific and recent year. That is, until we get to December. That’s when Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary and fatally shot 26 children and staff before taking his own life.

When the news hits, everyone has an opinion. What a monster. What a psycho. He should’ve have just killed himself. Someone else should have killed him. They ought to round up people like that before they can hurt anyone.

Adam, who’s never even touched a gun, realizes that people would throw him in the same group with Lanza. To make matters worse, while the students are unaware of Adam’s condition, the staff do know. And he realizes that at least some of them wonder if he’s next in line to crack. Maybe Adam shouldn’t be around ‘normal’ people. It’s just a safety measure. We’re thinking of the children. God only knows what someone like that is capable of.

Bonus Factor: Catholic School

Ornate Church

Adam’s parents send him to a private Catholic school for a fresh start. Adam is kind of an agnostic, he’s had enough trouble with invisible people as it is. He chuckles at the mandatory skirt lengths and the constant prayers. But he does wind up on the academic team with Maya and makes a friend or two along the way. He also puzzles over the words written on the bathroom wall: Jesus loves you. Don’t be a homo.

Would the Christians accept Adam for what he is? Or would they line up to cast the first stone?

Bromance Status: Real Friend

I think this book and I are destined to be friends for a long time. In real life.

FTC full disclosure: I received neither money nor homemade tarts for writing this review.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.