Our novel starts out with a pleasant ride through the country…but this isn't the family vacation you might be picturing.
It's the fall of 1948, and Deborah Blau, a sixteen-year-old schizophrenic, is finally going to get the help she needs. Her parents, Jacob and Esther, drive her from Chicago to a mental hospital in the country where she will live for the next three years. Dr. Clara Fried, a famous psychotherapist, agrees to take Deborah's case and digs in right away to try to understand the inner workings of Deborah's troubled mind.
Immediately, Dr. Fried can tell that Deborah is a sarcastic whiz kid who loves wallowing in self-pity and retreating to a make-believe world called Yr that's equipped with its own language and walls that keep the real world out. Sounds like the doc's got her work cut out for her.
While Deborah makes progress at the hospital, back at home, her younger sister Suzy starts coming into her own. Esther tries to hide just how sick Deborah is, because she can't stand the thought of others' judgement. That's probably because Pop, her dad, has always been the one really running the family, and he's a pretty judgmental dude.
Jacob is totally uncomfortable with the idea that his daughter is institutionalized, and he constantly fights to bring her home, even after Esther realizes that the hospital is the best thing for their daughter.
In therapy with Dr. Fried, Deborah uncovers the early days of her illness. It all started when she was five and had a tumor in her urethra. The doctors patronized her and called her female parts her "doll," and they told her the operation wouldn't hurt a bit. So imagine the little girl's horror when it hurt so much that she had to go back for a second operation. Deborah has serious trust issues now, and she detests any form of lying.
Uh, yeah, no kidding.
The summer after that horrific operation, Deborah's parents sent her to a camp whose patrons and counselors were openly anti-Semitic. As a Jewish girl who already felt bad about being Jewish (thanks, bigoted neighbors), the summer camp prejudice made her feel even more like garbage.
Deborah's little sister Suzy was also born around this time, and Deborah was so jealous that she remembers lifting the baby out of her bassinet and trying to throw her out the window. The guilt Deborah continues to feel about that incident is crippling. It's what led Deborah to start building Yr—the imaginary kingdom in her mind.
Yr started out innocently enough. Remember what you liked when you were five? Yr was all about hanging out with magical gods who gave Deborah superpowers, like the ability to fly and the ability to turn into a horse so she could run across a great plain at hyper-speed.
Pretty soon, though, Yr developed a dark side, and so the place Deborah went to hide also became a mental prison. She could slip back and forth between Earth and Yr, but she started spending more and more of her time in Yr, and this isolated her from her family and classmates.
Notice we didn't say "friends," though—Deborah didn't really have any. She had people she hung out with because they went to the same school, but none of them were her friends. They didn't understand her weirdness, and that only further convinced Deborah that she's not from Earth, and that she actually belongs to Yr. The Yri gods in turn always convince Deborah that she's poisonous to Earth beings, and that she should only hang with them.
You can see where this is going, right?
In present-day therapy, Dr. Fried tries to convince Deborah she's not poisonous, but this is difficult. Deborah tries to make friends at the hospital, and she does befriend a patient named Carla, but then she becomes convinced that she might poison Carla. Deborah also is terrified that she has poisoned her sister Suzy.
After hard work and a lot of patience, Dr. Fried finally gets Deborah to realize that she isn't poisonous—and that she didn't even try to kill Suzy. Turns out the memory of throwing her sister out of the window is just a recollection of wanting to do it. Who hasn't been jealous of a newborn sibling, right? But a five-year-old isn't strong enough to pick up a baby with one arm, out of a high bassinet she can't even see into, and then lug that baby to a window and open it with her free hand. It doesn't quite check out.
So Dr. Fried saves the day with her logic and compassion and patience. And Deborah? Well, she saves herself through hard work and perseverance. She finally learns to let go of Yr, and she finds her way back to the real world. She rents a room in the town outside the hospital, earns her GED, and she and her former hospital-mate Carla remain friends in the real world, living the dream.
Seriously, folks, we love a good happy ending.