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  • Writer's pictureThe Fiction Fox

Review: Breaking into Sunlight - John Cochran

Genre: Middle-grade contemporary

Published: Algonquin Press for Young Readers, June 2024

My Rating: 4/5 stars

In the category of middle-grade books that deal with heavy subject matter; here’s another one I can highly recommend.

We follow 12-year old Reese, who’s dad struggles with substance abuse. His world is turned upside down after the comes home from school one day and finds his dad unconscious on the floor after accidentally overdosing. The experience splits the family; his mum declaring this was the final straw, and declaring that she and Reese are leaving until Reese’s dad gets real help with his addiction. Meanwhile, Reese is trying to reconnect with his dad after what happens, and grieving the life they had before dad’s struggle began.

It’s a wonderful story that tackles the topic of addiction with a lot of care and compassion for all the different parties, and manages to portray it in a way that is understandable for younger readers. Books like this one matter; they can be incredibly powerful to kids who’re going through similar situations. Experiencing something like this is incredibly lonely, and recognizing yourself on the pages of a book can provide a little bit of support. Reese also shows perfectly how it’s possible to still involve your friends and be supported by them, even if they don’t have the same experiences as you do.

Two slight points of critique; the book is a little long and slow at times for the intended audience. Not every children’s book needs to be fast paced, but there were sections where I could see a 12-year olds attention wandering, and perhaps not picking the book back up again.

The second point is one from my own perspective as a medical professional. I was in awe of how incredibly well Reese acts in this medical emergency. He does exactly what I would wish every child could do: he calls 911 and his mum, gives the right information and waits with his dad for EMS to come. This is really impressive, and I would’ve wanted some recognition on page of how well he did. Throughout the first part of the story, Reese feels conflicted if he did the right thing and his mother, in her own shock immediately after the fact, reacts very flat and almost cold towards him. This is later addressed, but I really would’ve wanted some positive feedback a little earlies. Perhaps an EMT telling him how well he did.

Just in case: let me say it here and now. Reese (and any child that ever called 911 for their injured parent), you did something incredibly brave and smart and you are a hero. Don’t ever feel guilty for “not being able to do more”; you did the absolute best thing there was to do. You helped, and your parents are proud of you, whether they’re able to say it or not.

Many thanks to Algonquin Press for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

You can find this book here on Goodreads.


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