Recovery in the Media: #26. Asta in the Wings

Asta in the Wings

In this clever novel, a young girl learns how to deal with her mother’s mental illness and be herself instead of conforming to others.

26. Asta in the Wings by Jan Elizabeth Watson


While scanning book shelves in the library, I noticed this book.  Right away, the story and characters pulled me into the drama and emotion.  Although the main character of this book, Asta, does not struggle with mental health, reading about the struggle that she goes through with her mother’s illness and growing up helped me to understand how others might feel around me.  Thus, this story is full of playful but saddening examples of how mental health affects families.  So, I decided that it would be a good book to highlight for Media Monday.  This novel is engaging but also an honest look at families that struggle with mental illness.

Synopsis: Quirky and intelligent, Asta lives with her quiet older brother and delusional mother.  However, the 7-year-old loves the fantasy world that she has built her small community to be.  However, things for her family crumble apart when people from the outside world discover her life.  Suddenly the girl who was always alone must learn to adjust to being in school and interacting with others.  Her image of her mother must change as the child learns how her only parent has failed and helped over the years.  Darkly humorous, this story tells a story of hope, growth, and childlike strength.

Recovery Pluses: Asta might not fit in with other girls her age, but she is a sweet, unique child who wants the best for her family.  Following her journey helps readers to understand the importance of strong families as well as mental health.  Without being cruel to her mom, the book shows how some people cannot take care of children because of their illness.  Reading this book opened my eyes to the reality of how our actions and mental health affects others.  We choose our actions but that is not true of our brain chemistry and biological disposition.  Asta’s mother cannot help her illness.  However, it still affects others.  Realizing this helped me to see how painful my struggles are for those close to me.  That does not mean I should feel responsible or ashamed, but I should be aware of my impact so that I can understand my family better.

Another great aspect of this book is how Asta stays true to her identity.  She struggles with trying to fit in or being herself.  This is challenge for many people, especially those who struggle with mental health.  This novel shows how even a young girl who is trying to grow up and find her place in the world can stay strong and confident in who she is.

Cautions: This book deals with a heavy issue of mental health in families.  However, it is written for youth and deals with sad themes in a honest but tasteful way.

Overall, this book is sweet while dealing with a dark issue.  Asta not only is an delightful protagonist but also a strong female character who shows that people can thrive even in difficult circumstances.  After reading this book, I understood my family and friends better.  Mental illness is a disease not a choice.  However, it still affects all of those around me.  Realizing that helped me to care for and love others better as well as working to be in a healthier place.

Additional Links:

Asta in the Wings on Good Reads

Asta in the Wings on Amazon


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