Xavier in the Meantime
Published February 1, 2022
About Xavier in the Meantime
Sometimes Xavier wakes up feeling hopeless.
Every new doctor … this will fix it.
Removing him from school … this will fix it.
The therapy group … this will fix it.
And his dad moving out. Maybe, this will fix it. Despite his positive affirmations, the black dog never really leaves him. It watches from the corner of his room, never straying too far away—waiting for the perfect opportunity to sink its teeth in.
But Xavier has a plan—one he hopes will help all the kids in his support group. Enlisting the help of best friend Aster, he tries to convince his dad to turn the family sheep farm into a therapy retreat for the group session kids. But he is up against decades of tradition, his parents who are on a “break,” and the spectre of the black dog.
Can Xavier learn to cherish the moments in between the struggles—the moments in the meantime?
XAVIER IN THE MEANTIME is a companion novel to ASTER’S GOOD RIGHT THINGS, which I read and loved last year. Xavier is the boy with a pet bunny Aster meets in the other book. As soon as I saw that this book was about him (and incudes Aster as a side character!), I knew I needed to read it.
Xavier is such a cool kid. He has his own wild sense of style– I loved the descriptions of his outfits. He’s a bit of a loner. Homeschooled. Aster is his only friend. And everywhere he goes, the black dog follows him. It’s not a literal real dog. But he sees it in his mind, and it gives shape and presence to his depression. I thought the way the black dog is described and used as a metaphor for his depression was really powerful and original. It reminded me a little bit of the captain in CHALLENGER DEEP by Neal Shusterman.
When Xavier meets Aster in the other book, he and Aster learn about how doing small kindnesses for others can make them feel good inside. Xavier decides that small kindnesses won’t be enough to make him feel good, but he gets an idea for a big kindness, something that could help him and the other kids in his therapy group. It was really cool watching how the people around Xavier responded to the idea of the retreat and the way it impacted his connections with other kids.
This isn’t a story where he finds a magical cure for depression. The story mentions more than once that many people have chronic depression that doesn’t just go away forever. While it’s a really hopeful story, it doesn’t pretend that Xavier has found a magical cure. Rather that finding a supportive community that will be with him when the dark days come and the black dog returns is the true goal for him. I liked that, and I liked that the story explored what a supportive community can look like and how it develops.
Content Notes for Xavier in the Meantime
Recommended for Ages 10 to 14.
Xavier has depression. Aster has anxiety. Xavier’s mom has Crohn’s disease.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
A boy comes to therapy group with a black eye after having been beat up at school.
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