The Year My Life Went Down the Toilet

Dial. Aug. 2023. 288p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593112960.
Gr 5 Up–Stonewall Honoree Arlow (Almost Flying) takes readers on a fun, messy ride with their latest. This heartfelt exploration of queerness and chronic disease features seventh grader Al (she/her, at least for now), recently diagnosed with Crohn’s, who can barely make it through the day without dying of embarrassment. To complicate matters, her best friend Leo has decided to dedicate all his time to theater just as Al and Leo’s moms start dating each other! Luckily, Al finds friendship in a middle school IBD support group (which doubles as an LGBTQIA+ support group) where she meets Mina, who is “cute and knows everything about giant tube worms and makes [their] armpits sweat and who [they] think [they] might have a crush on.” Through it all, Al must puzzle out how to embrace all parts of herself—even the uncomfortable bits—and of people they love. Arlow crafts a rapidly paced tween drama featuring a layered cast. Al and her mother are Jewish; Leo’s mother is Jewish and his father is Latinx. The majority of named characters are queer. Al’s inner dialogue is particularly evocative and readers’ secondhand embarrassment is powerful. Through a hurricane of family, friendships, crushes, and chronic illness, Al shines.
VERDICT Funny, emotional, and full of poop; a first purchase!

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