Callie never meant to let it go this far. Sure, she may have accidentally-on-purpose skipped a day at her fancy New York City prep school, but she never thought she’d skip the day after that! And the one after that . . . and . . . uh . . . the one after that.
But when everything in your real life is going wrong (fighting parents! bullied little brother! girls at school who just. don’t. get. it!) skipping school starts to look like a valid mental-health strategy. And when Callie runs into Cassius, a mysterious and prickly “unschooled” kid doing research at museums all across the city, it seems only natural for her to join him. Because museums are educational, which means they’re as good as going to class. Right?
Besides, school can wait. What can’t wait is the mystery of why her grandmother seems to wish she could travel back in time to 1986, or what she wants so much to relive there. As Cassius helps Callie see the world in a whole new light, she realizes that the people she loves are far from perfect—and that some family secrets shouldn’t be secret at all.
Mental Health Days in NYC
Callie lives in New York City, having moved from New Jersey to a very swanky apartment after her father got a much better job. Her mother, having been stressed out by being a social worker, now makes artisanal soaps. Callie has moved from a crowded, struggling school to a private one where everyone is posh and shiny. Her grandmother, who is well-to-do, lives near the school, so Callie often visits. She is a little alarmed that her grandmother seems to be very interested in a man who is a neighbor, although she allows that her grandfather passed away some time ago. The neighbor, however, has an apartment that is practically a museum to the 1980s, and Callie is a little confused as to why her grandmother seems to want to go back to that point in time so very badly. After some mild trauma at school, Callie decides to skip a day, and takes herself to a museum. There, she meets Cassius, who is "unschooled" for reasons we late find out. The two get along after an initial rough start, and Callie finds herself skipping school for a lot of time. Her parents are struggling with her father being laid off, as well as some unspecified law suits, and Callie learns some family secrets.
Some of the sad issues involve Callie's uncle Larry, who was gay. I loved the interchange that Callie had with her own father, who supported his brother despite his own father's refusal to accept this-- Callie waits for her father to say that Larry was also a murderer or something horrible, because she doesn't understand why the grandfather was upset that Larry was gay. The grandmother is still grieving for Larry (hence the desire to go back to 1986), but is eventually able to make some peace with herself with Callie's help and insight.
This is definitely a New York City story, so fans of Paula Danziger, Kimmel's Forever Four and Lisa Greenwald's Sweet Treats and Secret Crushes will enjoy spending time in that city. This is a realistic fiction book, but it still has the feeling that it will verge into fantasy at any moment, making it a good choice for readers who enjoyed Stead's When You Reach Me.