Wings in a Jar
by Albert Rodriguez

"It isn’t until I turn twelve that I see life in a different way."

Growing up, Quattuor knows that he is different, which sometimes makes him an outsider at school and also an easy target for school bullies. As Quattuor perseveres through elementary schoolyards, junior high hallways, and high school classrooms, he is shaped by the experiences with friends and teachers along the way. He navigates carefully through his childhood and adolescence as he struggles with OCD and finds ways to manage it despite never having been diagnosed. After high school, he finds new friends in college, including Chris, who is bipolar and schizophrenic. With empathy and support, Quattuor recounts his encounters with Chris from adventurous outings to a stay at a mental health facility.

This coming-of-age saga knits together the highlights of a young man’s life and his coming to terms with his place in the world. With honesty and poignant description, Rodriguez captures all the highs and lows of growing up. He particularly captures that feeling young people often have that they are not normal. Through emotional vignettes and snapshots of childhood, he communicates the angst of not fitting in and the hope of connecting with people. Ultimately, the story is uplifting for teens who might feel like Quattuor. As he finds his way after high school, settling into his purpose through college and then a career, teen readers might also begin to envision their own lives after graduation.

Quattuor forges a path that other teens can follow through the dizzying fog of adolescence. The dispassionate tone of the first-person narrator may not appeal to teens looking for a more engaging and youthful storytelling voice, but the optimistic message will resonate through Quattuor’s pursuit of happiness and security. His compelling journey and genuine heart will surely captivate teen readers.

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