A Thousand Minutes to Sunlight

Farrar. Apr. 2021. 304p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374300869.
Gr 4-8–Twelve-year-old Cora’s anxiety keeps her locked in constant conversations with her Brain, counting the seconds and minutes in her days, and avoiding other students in her new middle school. Her panic attacks increase after her only friend moves away, and then matters get worse when her long-lost uncle, who has alcoholism, comes into their lives. Cora’s one enjoyable diversion is searching for treasures with her metal detector, an activity she shared with her father before his brother showed up and needed his help. When she runs away from school in a panic, her principal assigns exuberant, nerdy and overly friendly Patrick to walk Cora to classes. At first he annoys her and Brain and she resents having a “forced friend,” but his enthusiasm and positive attitude, alongside that of her aptly-named five-year-old sister Sunshine, slowly break down her dependence on the negative things that Brain tells her. Cora’s well-developed family, with their conflicts and disagreements, is loving and supportive but far from perfect. Cora shows great strength and courage when she finally decides to trust Patrick, and to help him despite Brain’s objections; this brave decision helps her finally find her own voice and some new friends.
VERDICT With appended facts about pediatric mental health and support contacts, Cora’s story, as told in her own words, will elicit empathy and resonate with those who experience anxiety and similar mental health conditions. Recommended.

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