Review of We Are All So Good at Smiling

We Are All So Good at Smiling We Are All So Good at Smiling
by Amber McBride
High School    Feiwel    304 pp.
1/23    9781250780386    $18.99
e-book ed.  9781250780393    $10.99

This ambitious novel in verse uses magical realism and fairy-tale elements to explore clinical depression and highlight the various stages of grief. Whimsy is back at the hospital again, where she has been forced to go numerous times since she was diagnosed with clinical depression. She recognizes the sadness and grief she feels, and she knows numerous coping mechanisms to manage her feelings, but she still struggles daily with her (gradually revealed) trauma. Although she is used to the hospital routine, this visit is different because she meets Faerry, a boy who knows sorrow that mirrors her own. Their bond is strengthened after their release from the facility, and together they decide to help each other cope with the pain that affects them both. When Faerry enters the Haunting Forest, a sinister plot of land that feeds on pain, Whimsy follows. If they cannot make it through, sorrow might swallow them whole, leaving nothing but death in its wake. McBride’s (Me (Moth), rev. 1/22) lush free-verse poetry creates a vibrant world teetering between the real and the magical, but the images and atmosphere act as background to serious issues of trauma and suicidality. Although the subject matter is heavy, the book serves as a reminder that, as sorrow and loss come for everyone, no one is alone. Back matter addresses mental health and expands on the story’s elements from fairy tales and folklore.

From the January/February 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

S. R. Toliver

S. R. Toliver is an assistant professor of literacy and secondary humanities at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her public and academic scholarship can be found on her website Follow her on Twitter @SR_Toliver.

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