Finding Jericho is a novel by Dave Jeffery that revolves around mental illness as a core theme. The author is a mental health professional. I read the third edition, which has just recently been released.
The protagonist is 15-year-old Jon Dupree. He and his mother move in with his Uncle Ronald, who’s been released from hospital after receiving treatment for bipolar disorder.
The early part of the book covers Jon’s adjustment to his new school, where he was mocked because of stigma related to his uncle’s condition. It also sets up connections that will become important later on, including a group of boys known as The Misfits.
About a third of the way through the book Uncle Ronald goes off his medication and ends up being hospitalized. He is not doing well, and Jon’s mother shares with him that there used to be a particular psychiatrist who was very helpful, and one of the ways they had communicated was with a stuffed bear named Jericho.
Through a series of unexpected connections, Jon comes to learn more about Uncle Ronald and his experiences. A mysterious source provides an interesting social history of how mental illness has been dealt with over the centuries, and cautions him not to make assumptions based on behaviour rather than what a person is actually saying.
This encounter with the mysterious source covers a lot of ground, and provides the reader with a good look at a number of different mental health-related issues. A poem written by Uncle Ronald serves as the focal point of this encounter.
After an accident that led to Jon being hospitalized, some of the relationships established early in the book are further developed, and Jon is able to learn more about how he can help Uncle Ronald. He’s then able to make a connection with his uncle and help him on the path towards healing.
One bit I wasn’t thrilled about was how electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) was described, albeit briefly. The way it was described and the language used presented it in a fairly negative light, and given that it was just a brief mention, I thought that was unnecessary. Then again, my personal bias is that I’m pretty ardently anti-stigma when it comes to ECT.
The book concludes with a positive message about the importance of being non-judgmental and accepting, as mental illness can happen to anyone. It’s an interesting read, and it’s effective both at educating and portraying mental illness in a realistic way, particularly for a young adult target reading audience.
Finding Jericho is available on Amazon.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
You can find my other book reviews here.
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