{Review} JANUARY FIRST: A Child's Descent into Madness and Her Father's Struggle to Save Her

*JANUARY FIRST came out this past Tuesday, so it's available now! Happy Book (Week)!

Title: January First: A Child's Descent into Madness and Her Father's Struggle to Save Her
Author: Michael Schofield
Release Date: Out now (Aug. 7, 2012)
Publisher: Crown / Random House
Received: e-ARC for review


A brilliant and harrowingly honest memoir, January First is the extraordinary story of a father's fight to save his child from an extremely severe case of mental illness in the face of overwhelming adversity.

At six years old, Michael Schofield's daughter, January, was diagnosed with one of the most severe cases of child-onset schizophrenia that doctors had ever seen. In January's case, she is hallucinating 95 percent of the time that she is awake. Potent psychiatric drugs that would level most adults barely faze her. January, "Jani" to her family, has literally hundreds of imaginary friends. They go by names like 400-the-Cat, 100 Degrees, and 24 Hours and live on an island called "Calalini," which she describes as existing "on the border of my world and your world." Some of these friends are good, and some of them, such as 400, are very bad. They tell her to jump off buildings, attack her brother, and scream at strangers.

In the middle of these never-ending delusions, hallucinations, and paroxysms of rage are Jani's parents, who have gone to the ends of the earth to keep both of their children alive and unharmed. They live in separate one-bedroom apartments in order to keep her little brother, Bohdi, safe from his big sister--and wage a daily war against a social system that has all but completely failed them. January First is the story of the daily struggles and challenges they face as they do everything they can to help their daughter while trying to keep their family together. It is the inspiring tale of their resolute determination and faith .

JANUARY FIRST was a tragic memoir revolving around a family and their attempts to save their daughter Jani from descending into madness.  She is the youngest person to be diagnosed with such an extreme case of schizophrenia.  Her violence got so bad that her parents were forced to live apart in two separate apartments in order to keep both of their children safe and happy.

I admit that I read this book more out of morbid curiosity than anything else.  I vaguely remembered hearing about this girl on TV a few years back and was hoping to see what had become of her.  I was sad to see that the book doesn't go into the future and where the family is today except for a couple of lines at the very end.  What happened to January between the time she last made the TV circuits and now?  How is she doing today?

I went online to find out more and was disturbed at all of the theories being tossed around.  While the parenting was suspect at times in the memoir, Michael Schofield also kept a blog, and while the lines have been deleted now, at one point he admitted to abusing January in order to get her to "behave."  It makes me wonder how much of this "memoir" is truth, especially since he has a Master's Degree in English.  Has he been wanting to write something so hard-hitting all along and set his daughter up for failure?  Is Jani schizophrenic, or does she just have an extreme imagination?  I had a huge imagination as a kid as well and see that time as when I brought the stories in my head to life orally rather than on paper.  If Jani's parents have introduced violence to the house, it's possible she's imitating them and not really of a violent nature herself.  Of course, it could be that poor Jani really has extreme schizophrenia.  I'm honestly not sure what to believe at this point after looking around online.  All I know is that I hope that Jani can overcome her obstacles and grow up in the most ordinary way possible.

C O V E R  F L A S H :

I like that the image is completely in motion.  That, combined with JANUARY FIRST in huge letters, caught my attention and made me click to read the summary!  The pop of pink helps it stand out as well.


  1. I read this book out of curiosity and as I am an adult with schizophrenia. I think him mentioning her IQ all the time was a bit annoying though. After the first or second time I think we get that she is a genius. Anyway... It was a good book and I couldn't stop reading. I wish they would have said how she is doing now. I hope she is doing alright. Good read and well worth the money.


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