Review: “Words on Bathroom Walls”

Roberto Cotlear, Staff Writer

A normal part of growing up and a popular trait among younger kids is developing an active imagination; some kids will even dream up imaginary friends. But imagine if you start having a hard time distinguishing fiction from reality. Julia Walton’s Words on Bathroom Walls, centered around seventeen year old Adam, covers the topic of schizophrenia. The majority of the book follows Adam as he navigates the world of high school while dealing with his disorder. While the book does not paint an accurate depiction of mental illness, it does reveal how someone might react and deal with their own mental illness. The book’s greatest strength is showing how Adam deals with being sick and how he comes to terms with the fact that he can’t change how his brain works. The majority of critics agree on the book’s value, supporting it with positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
Readers will find the main character, Adam, to be relatable. He comes off as a realist who does not like meaningless things; if he does not see the point in something, he will be hesitant to do it. Following Adam’s story reveals how schizophrenia affects the brain as the character describes what he is seeing and how it relates to what is currently going on in his life. For some background, Adam imagines characters all around him; the most important being Rebecca, who has been around from a young age. Adam comes across a scenario where he finds Rebecca casually standing in the same room as him, and suddenly she takes off running. As he follows her, Adam sees that she is running towards his girlfriend, Maya, who is drowning in the school pool, so he jumps in to save her. After he gets her out he starts questioning whether he heard Maya falling into the pool or whether he followed Rebecca when she ran.
A large part of the story centers around the romance between Adam and Maya. The relationship is well executed by Walton, despite some scenes coming off as sappy, however, Adam’s disturbing overextensive sharing of his relationship with Maya to his psychologist balances it out throughout the pages. Maya herself is a good match for Adam; her sharp tongue and bluntness mixes well with Adam’s critical outlook on life. Adam’s relationship with his imaginary friends also plays an important part in his character development. There is a genuinely sad scene when Adam realizes that Rebecca was never real. Although he knew that she was a hallucination, a part of himself always believed that Rebecca truly was walking around, doing cartwheels and making him feel better. The mobsters which Adam dreams up are also important, as they seem to be the physical forms of Adam’s insecurities.
Something that is apparent from reading the first few chapters is the fast pace at which Walton tells Adam’s story. The chapters fly through quickly, barely giving readers room to breathe after each plot twist. In addition, the story is written from the perspective of a teenager writing in a journal to his psychiatrist, which explains why the story is so fast paced. Otherwise, the book also has a knack for going nowhere with certain plot elements. For instance, the fact that Adam’s biological father left him and his mother when he was young gets a little attention around the begining but becomes forgotten later on in the story.
Words on Bathroom Walls is overall fun and engaging to read. It is a quick read and can probably be finished in a day if you are really immersed. Walton works hard to bring Adam and all of his imaginary characters to life as readers follow them through their normal high school lives. Pick up this book and learn a thing or two.