This by Lazaros Zigomanis

Reviewed by Rod McLary

The relevance of the title of this new book by Lazaros Zigomanis becomes clear in the last few paragraphs of this deeply personal and authentic tale of an un-named fifteen-year-old Greek boy.  While essentially fiction, the author states in the Acknowledgements that he ‘grew up with mental health issues through the 1980s’ [the period in which the book is set] and goes onto say that ‘lots of what happened in This is drawn from [his] own teenage life’ [365].

Narrated in the first person, the narrative spans nine months in the life of the protagonist as he navigates Year 10 at school and the complexities of family life and teenage friendships and rivalries.  The boy’s parents are Greek immigrants who work long and hard hours to provide a good lifestyle for the boy and his older sister Steph.  While most family discussions are conducted by shouting, this is the Greek way and the boy’s family life is underpinned by love between all four and genuine care for each other’s wellbeing.

However, following the funeral of his mother’s cousin Aunt Mena, the boy is overwhelmed by thoughts of death and asks himself the question: ‘Who’ll mourn for me?’ [9] and then in his mind arises the existential fear that he ‘might mean nothing, that [he is] alone’ [10].  Subsequently, he begins to experience what he soon learns are panic attacks – being ‘struck by sudden, debilitating anxiety’.  But his concern is, rather than his wellbeing, what his fellow students may think of him if he has an attack in the classroom.  His options for dealing with the panic are limited – he can’t go to his parents, they wouldn’t understand; the family GP may tell his parents if he goes to him.; so may the school counsellor.  The author truly captures the sense of isolation experienced by the boy as he attempts to address these attacks without anyone knowing; and also the unwelcome resentment that he feels as he watches his classmates living their lives as if nothing is wrong.

He is unable to share his feelings even with his close friends, Ash and Riley, telling himself that some matters are simply not discussed between them.  The struggle to maintain his equilibrium and, at the same time, manage his school work, complete his homework, and present a brave face to the world is authentically described through the narrative.

While he avoids for some time sharing his condition with his friends, he is finally challenged by them to share with them what is going on – and with some relief the boy tells all of it.  And the acceptance and concern he receives back – albeit expressed in the manner of fifteen-year-old boys – is both reassuring to him and a testament to the power of friendship.

The boy’s courage in seeking some assistance is beautifully and heartrendingly described.  It becomes clear that as much as he is loved by his parents and his sister, as supportive and caring as his friends are, as reassuring as the medical professionals are that he will get over it, it remains a personal struggle that he must face alone and resolve.  But that love and caring provides the bedrock that ultimately leads him to a place where he can accept the anxiety as part of him and his life and which can be managed.

While ‘lived experience’ may now be an overused term, it is one which can legitimately be applied to this beautiful and sensitive novel.  The author acknowledges that he struggled with mental health issues when a teenager and these struggles have informed his novel.  This is infused with authenticity and at times a raw honesty which fully engages the reader.  While the demographic for whom it is written is the young adult market, there is much to be learned and enjoyed by all readers regardless of age.

It is a novel well recommended to all.



by Lazaros Zigomanis

MidnightSun Publishing

ISBN 978 192285 584 6

$19.99; 368pp


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