January First is a heartbreaking story about mental illness and the consequences it has for everyone involved. Janni and her family’s story is an important one. It’s a story that will change your perspective on mental illness by teaching you empathy rather than sympathy. It’s a story that will show you what it takes, both emotionally and physically, to support someone with mental illness. Michael Schofield is a shinning white knight for Janni throughout the entire 6 years outlined in this book. He refuses to give up on her and has to make increasingly difficult decisions as Janni’s condition worsens.
The true genius of January First is its ability to convey the seriousness of mental illness as well as the importance of self-care. In order to help others, you have to be able to help yourself first. Michael places Janni’s needs before his throughout the entire novel, so it’s not surprising when it eventually comes crashing down on him. This glimpse into his weakness is what makes himself and his story human. It allows readers to see a different side of him that is kept hidden the entire novel.
My greatest hope for this novel is that it educates people on what schizophrenia really is and diminishes its stigma. Schizophrenia is a serious illness that shouldn’t be made into a joke or stereotype. People with schizophrenia and their families suffer everyday trying to keep its symptoms at bay, so I hope Janni’s story is a wakeup call to all those who make light of this illness.