Reviews tagging 'Panic attacks/disorders'

Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr

1 review

queer_bookwyrm's review against another edition

Go to review page

emotional hopeful reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


 4 ⭐ CW: absent/neglectful parents, parentification of child, food insecurity, anxiety, substance use

"But... What does it take to be in danger? What does that even mean? Are things not bad enough? Should things be worse before before...before I can make them better?"

Gem and Dixie by Sara Zarr is a contemporary YA novel set in Seattle. I got this from my monthly Introverts Retreat Box. This is why I like subscription boxes, because I get books I never would have picked up on my own.

We follow Gem and her younger sister, Dixie as they navigate an absent father who makes promises to change, but never does, and a neglectful mother who has substance use issues and refuses to get a regular job so her kids can actually have food. There are days Gem doesn't eat, but Dixie always finds a way.

The sisters couldn't be more different: Gem is older and has been parentified and takes care of her sister. She feels responsible for everyone and ends minimizing her own problems. She also doesn't really have any friends or anyone on her side except for the school psychologist. Dixie is more popular and more of a free spirit, and always has guys at school buying her lunch.

Then one day their father shows up and stashes almost $30,000 in cash in the girls' room. Gem takes this opportunity to runaway with her sister for a couple of nights. During their runaway, they each discover something about each of themselves, and Gem finally makes a decision for her own wellbeing.

I loved this book. It was so heart breaking and relatable. I relate to Gem in a big way. I was the older sibling who took care of everything and everyone. My parents were emotionally neglectful and abusive and expected me to take care of everything including supporting them instead of the other way around.

I loved that this book didn't end with Gem going home and just dealing with the same shit. She did something to help herself and it makes me wish I had had the same strength growing up. Like Gem, I learned to downplay my problems by comparing myself to other people's, because they weren't "as bad." I think this is also a commentary on how much we fail kids are aren't being physically abused, because the system isn't set up to prevent harm, only to respond to harm. I hate that as a domestic violence educator I have to tell kids that there is nothing I can do to help them unless their parents hit them. It always breaks my heart.

This was a short, but heartfelt read, and I encourage you to pick it up and put yourself in Gem's shoes. 

Expand filter menu Content Warnings