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Xavier in the Meantime by Kate Gordon

Sometimes Xavier wakes up feeling hopeless. Despite his daily affirmations, the black dog never really leaves him. It watches from the corner of the room, never straying too far, 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 are on a break, and the spectre of the black dog looms.

This is the companion novel to author Kate Gordon's Aster's Good, Right Things. This time the focus shifts to Aster's best friends, Xavier, and his struggles with depression. The relationship between the two is heartwarming and so special. While it helps to read the first book (and I highly recommend it as it is a stellar story), readers should be able to treat this newest addition as a stand-alone.

Xavier in the Meantime is a relatively quick read but it still manages to pack a hefty emotional punch. Gordon doesn't sugar coat or shy away from dealing with the nitty gritty of mental health. There are some heavy topics covered within the story, from depression and anxiety, animal rights, invisible illnesses, therapy, anger and much more. A lot of this book is also about poetry, and Gordon really uses that writing style to help convey some deep messages.

The only tiny thing that bugged me in the story was some potentially dated references. There's mention of Keep Cups and Tik Tok, which while relevant now may be "uncool" shortly and turn younger readers off. I hope not, as this is an important story that needs to be told.

I love the fact Gordon doesn't have her characters or their situations as problems to be solved. Xavier in the Meantime highlights the importance of cherishing the moments in between the struggles.

A wonderful follow-up to Gordon's tale of two friends, Xavier in the Meantime is a story I highly recommend.

Reviewed by Rebekah Lyell

Riveted Press, RRP $15.99


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