This five-star story is an own-voices story written by Elizabeth Roderick.
Justin Flaherty is mentally ill. He is diagnosed with schizophrenia, though it’s unclear whether this is due to his brushes with the Dark Energy that controls everyone’s actions, or if it is due to his other so-called quirks. He doesn’t eat meat because it tastes like death to him, he has specific outfits depending on the situation, because to have the wrong outfit would bring bad energy, and similar things. He is also an incredibly talented artist.
Unfortunately, most around him focus on where he is different, in particular his mother. She is tired of him, of caring for him, and would prefer if he was institutionalised, since that would get him out of her hair. Things take a turn for the worse when she starts to date a Baptist preacher (a widower with a very strange daughter) who feels that Justin should be sent to a Christian camp to be cured. Luckily, Justin has allies in the form of his girlfriend Mina–a Mexican-American girl whose mother is voluntarily committed–and later her father and her gay Uncle Julio.
I originally got this in a drive where Elizabeth Roderick (who I know from Twitter) gave the book away from free. Already by then I was fascinated with the story, but I forgot about it until I joined the Twitter challenge of reading 35 books during 2017 fitting into various squares. This one is my first square: Neuro-diverse MC (own voices). It also have several gay characters. I liked that it touches on medication and the sometimes-need for professional help.
Content warning: Very dysfunctional home, drug abuse, incarceration after a fake rape accusation, vilifying (by the actual villains) of mental health issues, and threats of being forced into an institution.