Mental illness is everywhere, but it is not always talked about in families. Depending on your upbringing, either you may have never realized people you know have suffered in silence for decades or you may be well versed in the challenges that come with these situations. I’m glad to see more books being written about mental illness because seeing these stories in the world helps to shed light on human struggles while inspiring empathy and understanding.

Petrichor was a surprise for me in many ways, as I was not sure what to expect based on the title alone. This is the story of Clayton, a young boy who lives on a farm run by his father. They are in the midst of a lengthy dry spell, and the crops and livestock are suffering, but that is not the only situation causing his family angst. Unable to remember why his brother Davo is gone, Clayton finds himself piecing together his memories while attempting to find a way to return both rain and happiness to his home. Please see my full review here.

Full disclosure: I had never heard of the word Petrichor before reading this book, and when I looked up the definition, it is the perfect title for this story. (In case you don’t know its definition, either, here you go: “a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.”) This story takes place in Australia and is thus filled with references to Australian flora, fauna, and terminology, but the feelings of Clayton’s family are universal. Many of the emotions felt by the protagonists reminded me of the Dust Bowl in the United States, for example; farming is hard no matter where you live, especially if the rain does not come as expected.

The author of this book uses magical realism to shed light on the complexities of mental illness in a unique way, causing the reader to consider exactly what is real and what is not. More than once, my jaw dropped as I was reading because of the visceral and unexpected descriptions of events in the narrative. There is occasional profanity and some challenging visuals found in the text, but mature young adults with an interest in mental illness and family dynamics are sure to find this story compelling.

Presented as something of a novella, this book reads quickly and focuses on one primary plot line. Though the book is on the shorter side, its message is no less profound and readers will find themselves considering the events in the narrative long after the final page is turned. After the story’s conclusion, resources for people experiencing mental illness are included as a way to support readers following the heavy plot points in this book. If you’re ready for a gripping story with some emotionally complex elements, this is a great option for you to consider.

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