Baby & Solo

Lisabeth Posthuma

Book - 2021

"Joel's new job at the video store is just what the therapist ordered. But what happens if the first true friend he's made in years finds out about What Was Wrong With Him? Seventeen-year-old Joel Teague has a new prescription from his therapist--a part-time job--the first step toward the elusive Normal life he's been so desperate to live ever since The Bad Thing happened. Lucky for Joel, ROYO Video is hiring. It's the perfect fresh start--Joel even gets a new name. Dubbed "Solo" after his favorite Star Wars character, Joel works his way up the not-so-corporate ladder without anyone suspecting What Was Wrong With Him. That is, until he befriends Nicole "Baby" Palmer, a smart-mouthed coworker with... a chip on her shoulder about . . . well, everything, and the two quickly develop the kind of friendship movie montages are made of. However, when Joel's past inevitably catches up with him, he's forced to choose between preserving his new blank slate persona and coming clean--and either way, he risks losing the first real friend he's ever had. Set in a pop-culture-rich 1990s, this remarkable story tackles challenging and timely themes with huge doses of wit, power, and heart." --

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Mental illness Young adult fiction
Somerville, MA : Candlewick Press 2021.
Main Author
Lisabeth Posthuma (author)
Item Description
Includes a list of resources.
Physical Description
406 pages ; 24 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Encouraged by his therapist, 17-year-old Joel gets a part-time job at ROYO Video. This attempt at normalcy drops him into a chaotic environment populated by an eclectic bunch of misfits who staff the shop. Even so, he manages to make the best of it by gaining a nickname ("Han Solo" after the Star Wars character) and a new friend in Nicole "Baby" Palmer. When Baby reveals that she's pregnant, Joel suddenly (and worryingly) finds himself being asked to be a source of strength and stability. Posthuma immerses the reader in a time capsule of 1990s pop culture, managing to keenly capture not only the feeling of growing up in that era but also the motifs of iconic films like Empire Records and High Fidelity. Despite the fun and humorous tone, the book nonetheless tackles hard-hitting topics such as teen sex and pregnancy, mental illness, and suicide with directness and empathy. This is a great read for those curious about how teens related to each other before the rise of cell phones and social media.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Nearly a decade after "The Bad Thing" occurred and "What Was Wrong With Me" set in, 17-year-old Joel just wants to be "Normal." Following years of psychiatric treatment and despite Joel's mother's concern, Joel's therapist suggests that he "try life out" in the form of employment. Soon, he lands a job at ROYO Video, where no one knows about his history and he can even take on a new film character name--Han Solo. He soon forms a close bond with coworker Nicole ("Baby," from Dirty Dancing), a teen navigating a situation of her own, but fears telling her about his past. The suspense in Posthuma's (Song's Eight Six, for adults) heartfelt, Michigan-set novel with a largely white cast comes not from discerning "The Bad Thing That Happened" or the nature of Joel's history--readers will form a general idea early on--but rather how Joel will come to terms with the past. Outspoken, sarcastic Nicole makes an amusing foil to quiet, introspective Joel, and the duo's vividly portrayed video store workplace lends an era-specific liveliness. Though the book takes place in 1996, the issues it addresses, including the lingering effects of trauma, remain relevant. Ages 14--up. Agent: Stephen Barr, Writers House. (May)

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Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up--In the mid-1990s, Joel Teague, at the behest of his psychiatrist, takes on a new job: video rental store clerk. ROYO Video, where all employees go by movie character names, is a fresh start: he's now dubbed Solo and his coworkers don't know about "The Bad Thing That Happened." While Joel proves to be a dutiful worker and tries to keep everyone at arms' length, he still connects to Scarlet, Poppins, Maverick, The Godfather, and particularly Baby. Baby--Nikki--is abrasive yet vulnerable, and is also hiding a secret. Their friendship centers the story and has its ups and downs as they learn more about each other and their situations. Tough issues, such as mental illness, divorce, homophobia, and emotionally abusive family members, are explored with nuance and empathy. There are moments of lightheartedness too, such as movie discussions and a Secret Santa exchange, which make the novel well-rounded and heartfelt. Baby and Solo are white, and their coworkers have a variety of backgrounds. VERDICT A strong addition to high school libraries, as it gracefully handles mental health and demonstrates a strong, platonic friendship.--Susan Elofson, Airport H.S., West Columbia, SC

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review

Joel Teague -- an affable, self-deprecating teen living in 1990s Michigan -- is at a crossroads. After years spent in and out of inpatient psychiatric care following an unspecified "Bad Thing That Happened," Joel is now seventeen and long past his last flare-up. When his therapist prescribes a part-time job, Joel gets hired at ROYO Video. There, he takes the Star Wars-inspired nickname Solo and, with it, the chance to reinvent himself as "Normal" -- as long as he keeps his history secret from his gaggle of quirky, cinematically pseudonymed young coworkers. In this pop culture-heavy period piece, Solo narrates his own halting, sometimes misguided emotional coming of age with an earnest, immediate voice. His friendship with Baby -- a tough, straightforward, pregnant colleague standing at her own crossroads -- becomes both a safe haven from his increasingly difficult parents and a proving ground for his complex relationships with others: for example, when she pushes him to examine his behavior around a gay coworker with a crush on him, and around his troubled but alluring boss. The lingering, often-alluded-to mystery of Solo's past casts an uneasy tension over his social wins and losses. The traumatic story he eventually reveals is neither tidy nor redeeming, but neither, Solo learns, is life -- even for Normal people. Authentically flawed characters and imperfect connections add heft to this bittersweet workplace dramedy. Jessica Tackett MacDonald July/August 2021 p.122(c) Copyright 2021. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Through work, friendship, and honesty, 17-year-old Joel confronts his difficult past and begins healing. At the suggestion of his psychiatrist--and despite his worried mother's concerns--Joel starts working part time at a video store (it's 1996). On the first day he is asked to choose a movie character's name for his work alias, and he picks Han Solo from Star Wars. The significance of this choice is revealed much later, as readers slowly learn why Joel was in and out of psychiatric hospitals for much of his youth. Joel's burgeoning friendship with co-worker Baby (from Dirty Dancing) is refreshingly platonic. It challenges Joel, who is torn between wanting to be seen as "Normal" and his growing desire to confide in her about his past. In his sometimes-wry, always cleareyed, narration, Joel drops tantalizing clues about his family's pain and his struggles with mental health. The author seamlessly weaves sound psychological advice into the story through Joel's observations about how he reacts to the behavior of his parents and cast of misfit co-workers. This sensitive, complex, and layered novel provides insight into family trauma and mental health recovery while taking readers on a journey of discovery that ends with an unexpected revelation. Most characters are White; there is some diversity in the supporting cast. An absorbing story of recovery from trauma. (Fiction. 13-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Part 1 Royal Oak, Michigan -- August 1996 "I think Joel is ready," Dr. Singh concluded. I was on the couch, sitting up because it was only my brain and not my whole body being examined. There weren't enough chairs for us all to have one, and since I was technically still the patient, I followed rank. "I don't know how I feel about this, Dr. Singh," my mom said. "It doesn't sound like there are safeguards in case of a relapse." I hated that word. Relapse. It made me sound like a druggie. "There haven't been any occurrences in almost two years." He glanced at my chart to confirm this timeline, but he was right. I hadn't had a major flare-up of What Was Wrong With Me since I was fifteen. "I think it's time we let him try life out, Mrs. Teague." Mom scowled. "Shouldn't we try another medication?" "I'm ready, Mom," I assured her, though she wasn't asking me. I was used to that -- being discussed instead of participating in the discussion. My dad said nothing, but he squeezed Mom's hand. She sighed. "What does it mean to 'try life out,' exactly?" she asked. "We're not talking about backpacking across Europe, are we?" "Is that something that would interest you, Joel?" Dr. Singh mistook my mother's absurdity for a legitimate suggestion. "An adventure could be highly beneficial to Joel's recovery." Both of my parents looked horror-struck. I thought about making light of things and pretending that I'd always dreamed of running with the bulls in Pamplona, but Mom and Dad had already been through enough. The Bad Thing That Happened had happened to them, too. Besides, I disagreed with Dr. Singh. What Was Wrong With Me had been adventure enough. "I'm good to experience life on a smaller scale before becoming a world traveler," I said, to my parents' obvious relief. "How so?" my dad asked. If anyone invited my opinion in discussions about my mental health, it was always him. "What sounds fun to you? Would you maybe want to join a sports team?" The genericness of his suggestion proved how little my dad knew about me. "Maybe," I answered. "We'll see." "It's important to set concrete goals as you fully integrate into normal life," Dr. Singh cautioned. "We need to have a plan in place before you all leave here today. And I'll be following up to make sure you actually take whatever we decide the first step is." Then he recited the words printed on the motivational poster hanging on the wall behind him: "It's never too late to become what you might have been." Motivational posters were staples in child psychiatrists' offices. These posters typically featured cheesy advice splashed across scenic mountain photographs, puppies and/or kittens, or, for reasons I will never understand, Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown. The kid so mercilessly bullied by his so-called friends that he couldn't even grow hair was somehow the (literal) poster child meant to rally the mentally ill youth of this world. His picture was usually paired with such pandering catchphrases as "Anything is possible with determination!" and "Success is up to you!" and, worst of all, "Never give up!" The "Never give up!" poster featured that heartless bitch Lucy yanking the football away from Charlie just as he's about to kick it. In the history of Peanuts, Charlie Brown has never gotten to kick that goddamn ball because Lucy always, always pulls it away. But, you know, "Never give up!" My father turned to Dr. Singh. "What do you think of him getting a job? Something part-time with other kids his age?" "That's a great idea," my mom agreed, shockingly. Without consulting me, the doctor said, "That sounds perfect. Let's aim for it!" "OK." I shrugged, climbing onto the bandwagon. A job did appeal to me more than sports. For one thing, I'd be getting paid. Plus, a job felt like less of a commitment. If you quit a sports team, you were considered a wuss, but people quit jobs all the time, and no one cared. That was Normal, and let's be honest, Normal was the ultimate goal. I used to be Normal, after all. Maybe all that remained between me and being Normal again was providing goods or services to my peers for minimum wage for a while. It was worth a try. "I'll spiff up my resume." Everyone was all smiles after this, though I knew my mom's was forced. The doctor gave me a two-week deadline to set up an interview. He wrote this on a prescription pad and handed it to me like it was an antibiotic for a bacterial infection. I thanked him, and we left his office. It was the first time in seven years that I thought that someday I might not have to come back anymore. Excerpted from Baby and Solo by Lisabeth Posthuma All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.