Arlow, Jake Maia

The Year My Life Went Down the Toilet

(2) 4-6 Stomach pain and the urgent need to run to the restroom are frequent occurrences for twelve-year-old Al, something she finds excruciatingly embarrassing. And that's not the only thing making her anxious: she has realized she's attracted to girls but isn't ready to share that. Her mom's constant worrying about Al's digestive issues is annoying; and Mom's evolving relationship with Al's best friend's mother changes things for everyone involved. After Al learns she has Crohn's disease, some of the stress of her diagnosis is offset by an inflammatory bowel disease support group, one of whose members becomes a romantic interest. Though Al struggles to open up about multiple aspects of her life, the book reassuringly shows that what makes her feel alone is more common than she thinks: she's not the only one who's queer, and she's also not the only "Bathroom Club" member texting from the toilet. Her first-person narration is frank and doesn't lean on euphemisms. Humor is plentiful but not zany; the emphasis on Al's emotions makes it easy to empathize with her. Al and many other characters are Jewish (statistically likely given the IBD subject matter), and the casual, varied Jewish representation is another plus.


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