Calvin by Martine Leavitt
To be published: Nov 17, 2015
Written as an epistolary novel, seventeen-year old Calvin has always thought of himself as emboding Bill Waterson’s comic strip character Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes. After all, he was born on the day the last strip was published, his grandfather gave him a stuffed tiger named Hobbes when he was a baby, and his best friend’s name growing up was Susie. Calvin has pretty much been coasting through high school not really applying himself when he is diagnosed with schizophrenia. Hobbes the tiger comes back into his life as a delusion, but can’t control anything that he says or does. Calvin decides that the only thing that will make him better is to get Bill Waterson to draw a comic strip of a healthy Calvin with no Hobbes in it. So he sets out on journey across Lake Erie in the middle of winter to get to Mr. Waterson’s house, with the aid of Susie and Hobbes. Will he be able to make it there in one piece? To find out, read this delightful book. Recommended for ages 16+, 4 stars.
I originally picked up this book because I was a big fan of the comic strip and I’d always been curious about schizophrenia and its effect on people. I had an aunt with it but I never really knew her. The book kind of glazed over the main character actually having schizophrenia (a major mental illness), focusing instead on Calvin and the person he becomes after this life-changing journey. And I will admit that I was okay with that, because the language and the story were so good. I read the book back in October, but the review took me forever to write. I liked the book, but it was hard to summarize it because it was so much more than just dealing with a mental illness book. The book ended up being really profound and thought-provoking. It talked about what things you really need to be to be happy and have a good life, the kinds of things you can live without, and first love. It was about acknowledging your problems and dealing with your life instead of just cruising through it.
It also had some brilliant quotes. In the beginning of the book Calvin is talking to the Doctor about mental illness and tells him “It’s the death of normal.” and that “Normal is not sick. Normal is blending in, like not having a psychotic episode in the middle of school, which makes you stand out.” Or when Calvin is trying to convince himself that Hobbes is a figment of his imagination and Hobbes replies “Humans are doofuses,”which has a very large ring of truth to it on many levels. Or later towards the end when Calvin can’t quite figure out if Susie is real and did accompany him on this trip or is a figment of his cold-addled brain, and she tells him that she loves him because he has “the guts of a tiger, a space explorer, a race car drive, a luge athlete. You have this amazing imagination. You’re never boring. You aren’t afraid to ask hard questions and find out there aren’t any answers. And you – you also know me in a way nobody knows me.” That is exactly how I would love to be described by someone I love.
Disclaimer: I received this book, from Netgalley and the publisher Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, in exchange for my honest review.