Sarah Moon's SPARROW--YA Lit for Mental Health Awareness Month
Sarah Moon's Sparrow (Bookshop.org)
Today, I want to talk to you about Sparrow by Sarah Moon. As we head into May, Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought I would highlight a YA book that focuses on mental health in young adults.
Sparrow (the main character's name) is a story of an eighth grade girl navigating middle school, a mother with high-expectations, an affinity toward birds, and feelings that she doesn't quite understand. Having been an eighth grade teacher for many years, I so appreciate Moon's depiction of Sparrow. I love how accessible this text is for late middle grade students, but also for high school students. Sparrow's struggle is one that secondary students will be able to identify with and understand.
The premise of the story (this is not a spoiler!) is that Sparrow has been found on the ledge of the roof of her school, and has been held in a psych ward for a few days, and is now managing therapy, her relationships with family and friends, and school in general. What I love about the narrative is that while Sparrow is a sympathetic character, the reader does not quite feel sorry for her. She has a quiet strength and a unique understanding of herself and that fact that she has trouble communicating to her mother and the people who care about her.
Again, having taught this age group, I so appreciate that Moon doesn't marginalize the issues that young people face and the complexity of these issues. In addition, Sparrow's mother could easily have become the antagonist and/or villain in this story, but Moon does an excellent job of representing her point of view. While the reader may get frustrated with Sparrow's mother, Moon never neglects in representing the intricacies of a mother/daughter relationship, and the motivations of a parent who loves her child.
While I cannot tell you my favorite part of the story, because, friends, that would be a spoiler, I can tell you that Sparrow's therapist, Dr. Katz, and Sparrow's love of music culminate into a satisfying (yet, not fairy-tale) ending. Again, I am in awe in the restraint Moon exhibits throughout the course of the narrative. The story feels authentic and relatable, and Sparrow is a character you will not soon forget.
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