Counting Backwards by Laura Lascarso
Publication Date: August 14, 2012
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: car theft, psychiatric correctional facility, broken family
Format read: ARC from Simon & Schuster at ALA
Summary: Taylor’s dad opts for her to spend time in a psychiatric correctional facility (length of time: unknown) instead of doing probation after she’s caught stealing a car.
Normally, if someone’s first offense is stealing a car, they don’t typically end up in a psychiatric facility.
Community service? Definitely.
Let this be a testament to how over-the-top Taylor’s father was. He had her best intentions in mind when he requested she be placed there, but from an outsider’s perspective, the entire family should have taken up camp in a facility. Taylor’s parents split years before and she chose to stay with her alcoholic mother, who despite many visits to rehab and attempts at AA, cannot get sober. Taylor believes her father still feels hurt that he wasn’t chosen over his wife. Life with her mom is anything but easy (though she doesn’t feel she can admit this to her dad) — she stays out all night drinking, brings home random men, can never hold a steady job, and they’re constantly moving because she’s always late with the rent.
One of my favorite aspects of Lascarso’s writing was how she made me feel connected to Taylor. I felt the anger and betrayal Taylor emoted – she was pissed at her dad and furious she had to be locked in the facility. She didn’t understand why such extreme measures had to be taken. Over time, we see the depth of Taylor’s problems — she can’t control her breathing, has panic attacks, and has been mentally fractured by her mother’s poor decisions and her father’s controlling hand.
She fights back against the system — resists therapy, neglects to do any school work, makes enemies instead of friends, and thinks of nothing other than a plan for escaping the facility.
Through an air vent in the floor, she hears someone playing music in the room directly below hers. Eventually she and the mystery person begin speaking through the ducts, but she doesn’t know who he is. One night he suggests she leave her doom room after lights out to meet him in the basement. They forge a bond in the used-to-be darkroom despite not being able to see one another; he has ways to help her escape that could prove very beneficial. Taylor continues to plot and plan her exit despite feeling like she may be running from one of the first friends she’s ever had.
Counting Backwards is an amazing tale of a girl who has really been dealt the crappiest of hands. Once in the correctional facility she has to overcome herself, as much as her past, to create a new future. Her plans don’t always work out as she wants them to, but part of the journey is seeing how she’ll deal with the speed bumps. She chooses to keep her feelings repressed, afraid of being hurt by anyone. Weathering the storm with Taylor was a unique mix of heart-break and intrigue. I pushed for her and hoped she would learn to make the right choices. Because I was so wrapped up in her voyage I couldn’t help but speed read through Counting Backwards in a few hours.
Maybe it’s just me, but rehab/correctional facility/psychiatric ward books fascinate and awe me. Counting Backwards is a wonderful debut novel by Laura Lascarso if you’re looking for a story with a very messed-up girl with a lot of repressed anger who gets herself into more than a few sticky situations.