Living With Viola

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Pub Date 30 Nov 2021 | Archive Date 16 Nov 2021

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“unforgettable . . . will shake middle grade readers to the core”—School Library Journal, starred review

"Beautifully illustrated, relatable, and genuine." —Molly Brooks, creator of Sanity & Tallulah

“Everyone needs to buy this book now.  Seriously.  Buy it, read it, share it.”—Colleen Nelson, author and teacher

Honest and funny, this award-winning graphic novel from a debut creator is a refreshingly real exploration of mental health, cultural differences, and the trials of middle school.

Livy is already having trouble fitting in as the new girl at school—and then there’s Viola. Viola is Livy’s anxiety brought to life, a shadowy twin that only Livy can see or hear. Livy tries to push back against Viola’s relentless judgment, but nothing seems to work until she strikes up new friendships at school. Livy hopes that Viola’s days are numbered. But when tensions arise both at home and at school, Viola rears her head stronger than ever. Only when Livy learns how to ask for help and face her anxiety does she finally figure out living with Viola.

Rosena Fung draws on her own early experiences with anxiety and the pressures of growing up as the child of Chinese immigrant parents to craft a charming, deeply personal story that combines the poignancy of Raina Telgemeier’s Guts with the wacky humor of Lumberjanes. Exuberant, colorful art brings Livy’s rich imaginative world—filled with everything from sentient dumplings to flying unicorns—to life on the page.

“unforgettable . . . will shake middle grade readers to the core”—School Library Journal, starred review

"Beautifully illustrated, relatable, and genuine." —Molly Brooks, creator of Sanity & Tallulah


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ISBN 9781773215488
PRICE $22.95 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

What a lovely middle grade story! I love how it goes in dept about diversity and the feelings of a tween. The main character is absolutely adorable and I loved the emotional growth she went through. This was a very fast quick read and I’d definitely recommend it to any friends with kids in the same age group. Absolutely lovely!

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*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing access to this book in exchange for an honest review.*

If I could give just one book to my 7th grade self, this would be the one.

In many ways, my middle school experience was different from Livy’s. I’m not the daughter of immigrants; nobody thought my lunch smelled weird; I didn’t have friends with way fancier houses than me. In so many more ways, I saw myself on every page. I wanted to pursue a creative career that my dad didn’t consider a “real job”. I liked “childish” things but sometimes hid them from my friends because I was embarrassed. I was sad, struggling, and afraid to ask for help.

I shared every single one of Livy’s fears that kept her from reaching out, from the fear that everyone really hated me to the fear that my parents would send me away if I told them what was happening inside me. I am glad that Livy lists her fears so that the trusted adults in her life can help her through them, and I know it will help others reading this book to reach out as well. Watching/reading Livy go through some coping activities near the end of the story is also beneficial, both so that readers have some things to try in their own life, and so they can get an idea of what it might be like to see a therapist. Even though Livy knows that her anxiety will always be there, this part was so hopeful, because now she knows that there are things she can do to feel better and that she has a support system around her. I’m thrilled that this book exists and I can’t wait to give it away once it comes out.


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I wish this graphic novel had existed when I was a child. There are so few resources for kids who suffer from anxiety disorders and this one is unflinchingly honest. It's also a good read for the adults in kids' lives, as it shows how behaviors and words can be damaging, while also showing how adults can help kids get through it. Highly recommended!

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As a parent of a child diagnosed at age ten with a severe anxiety disorder, I am always looking for books on the subject of mental health, especially children's books. Living with Viola immediately got my attention. In the book, Olivia (Livy) Tong lives in Canada and is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Livy has anxiety. Her anxiety is portrayed as a living, breathing alter ego named Viola. Of course, Livy doesn't recognize the voice of Viola as anxiety but rather a feeling that she is not good enough. As the story unfolds, we see the pressure that Livy is under to be a good student and make her parents proud. We also see Viola's power increase as Livy shrinks further and further into herself. ***SPOILER ALERT*** Livy is finally able to ask for help, which her parents are happy to give in the form of a therapist and of course, a reminder of their unconditional love for her.

This is a graphic novel and the ARC did not translate well into an e-book form. Even though it was difficult at times, I was able to keep up with the story. I'm glad that I was. This is an important book for children and teens with anxiety or any kind of mental health issues. The graphic novel style will appeal to children who may not reach for a chapter book. Children often feel that they are the only ones who feel like they do. This book gives them permission to recognize and name what they are feeling, to know that they are not alone, and that it is OK to ask for help. The fact that Livy is of Asian descent, is a bonus. This opens up the conversation that therapy is for EVERYONE who needs it and that there is no shame in seeking help when feelings get too big.

I would absolutely buy this book for any child that struggles with anxiety, depression, identity or fitting in. It should be in every school library and required reading for all.

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