...Wow. Perhaps there is no better word in the English language to sum up how I felt about this book. I felt unbelievably sad at the end, not because it was unexpected, but because things like this happen all the time to real people. The book would still be sad if I didn't have that knowledge, but knowing that the fate that befell the protagonist of this book is not an uncommon one makes it all the worse.
I didn't expect to like the book as much as I did, though I'm not sure if I genuinely liked the book or just admired it for what it did. I would assume it's much harder to get into the head of a schizophrenic than it is to get into the head of, say, a character with Asperger Syndrome, but it seems pretty realistic to me; almost horrifyingly so. Refreshingly lacking the "unintelligible nutcase" stereotype that was once so prevalent in depictions of schizophrenia, Zach feels like a real kid to me. Reading about what goes on in his head hurt me because of it; if nothing else, the author quite effectively conveyed the soul-crushing pain psychotic symptoms can cause a person. The other characters are interesting too, if not terribly original.
Are there problems with this book? Probably. The book lapses into the didactic every so often, which can be annoying if you're reading purely for STORY and not really for INSIGHT (and even then...). It's not the most spectacularly written book, either. And again, I found a lot of the book to be quite distressing, which I would assume was the author's intention. You can almost feel the sensations and hear the hallucinations Zach does, and it does get pretty intense, and relatively quickly.
That being said, this book kept me turning the pages, and quickly. Though I know not whether this book is accurate in its depiction of the struggle, I do think it succeeds in making a "strange" character feel like a human being. It probably won't appeal to a huge audience, as it has a lot of difficult subject matter and ends quite unhappily (and suddenly). Still, those interested in learning about that which many people (myself included) consider to be the worst of all mental illnesses should check this one out. It's a quick and compelling read, and very admirable in its accomplishments.