Even as an infant, it was obvious that there was something different about January. She constantly required stimulation and it only got worse as she got older. She needed hours of activity before being able to sleep, would become aggressive if she couldn’t get her own way, and had difficulty interacting with other children her own age. January had multiple imaginary friend who she seemed to believe truly existed.
Throughout time her behavior becomes increasingly more aggressive and violent, often hitting her parents to the point of bleeding. Eventually her parents have no choice but to take her to see a psychiatrist, who seemed to be baffled by January’s behavior and cannot give a precise diagnosis. January’s parents believe that their child is suffering from a severe case of schizophrenia – a diagnosis which the doctors are reluctant to give out.
January First is written by January’s father Michael Schofield. It tells the story of his journey to try to save his daughter from her own mind.
I tried incredibly hard to not be judgmental while reading this novel. Many people have speculated whether the young girl in the novel actually does have schizophrenia. Having absolutely no training in mental illness, I couldn’t make any type of educated diagnosis on January. However, regardless of what her actual diagnosis is, it’s clear that January is an incredibly disturbed little girl. I can only imagine how difficult it must be on her parents. That is why I tried so hard not to judge January’s parents, but it was not easy.
There were so many times during this book that I wondered what kind of reasoning the parents had behind their decisions. The biggest red flag was their decision to have a second child. They were already barely able to handle their first child when they decided to have a second child. Why did they do it? Because January said she wanted a sibling and they assumed it would finally give her someone to play with and calm her down. Naturally, it had the complete opposite effect. Adding another child into the mix turned out to make things a whole lot more difficult for the parents, and somehow they were surprised at the outcome. Who in their right mind thinks, “Maybe adding an infant into the mix will make things easier for us?”
I also tried not to judge the author but I found him to be incredibly unsettling and uncomfortable. There was something off about his relationship with his daughter and I’m basing this purely on the version he gave us. I shudder to think of what he left out. He waits way too long to finally seek help for his daughter simply because he feels as though no one can or ever will understand her the way he does. He’s even condescending towards January’s mother. He acts as though her parenting skills are inferior to his. His obsession with her being a genius is overwhelming. I dare you to sit there and count how many times he calls January a genius. He’s so focused on the fact that his child may be the next Einstein that he doesn’t see the obvious psychological and behavioral issues at hand. I often wondered, if he wasn’t there to enable his child’s behavior would it have gotten so far?
Final Verdict: I really couldn’t get into this book. I gave it a 2-star rating on Goodreads.