On the edge of the Chicago medical district, the Harrison School for Exceptional Youth looks like a castle in a snow globe. Janina has been there since she was ten years old, and now she's fourteen. She feels so safe inside its walls that she's afraid to leave.
Devante's parents bring him there after a tragedy leaves him depressed and suicidal. Even though he's in a different place, he can't escape the memories that come flooding back when he least expects them.
Dr. Gail Thomas comes to work there after quitting her medical residency. Frustrated and on the verge of giving up on her dreams, she sees becoming a counselor as her last chance to put her skills to the test.
When he founded the school, Dr. Lutkin designed its unique environment to be a place that would change the students' lives. He works hard as the keeper of other people's secrets, though he never shares any of his own. But everything changes late in the winter of 1994 when these four characters' lives intersect in unexpected ways. None of them will ever be the same.
PRAISE FOR A BITTER PILL TO SWALLOW
"Tiffany Gholar's debut novel is a gripping narrative set in a world of multigenerational characters fighting for truth, integrity and wholeness."—Kalisha Buckhanon, author of Speaking of Summer and Upstate, winner of the ALEX Award
"In this smart, layered story about life in a school for troubled teens, the characters learn to embrace recovery and ultimately, one another."—Cal Armistead, author of Being Henry David
“The characters, at every age, are vulnerable, believable, multi-faceted and compelling. Gholar's deceptively straight-forward style, a mix of humor and brutal honesty, stokes our empathy and our hope for understanding, and makes us remember how harrowing the world can be for teenagers. She gets under the reader's skin, forcing attention be paid to the deep and turbulent lives of sensitive, intelligent youth.”—James Finn Garner, author of The Wet Nose of Danger
"Multigenerational stories are uncommon on the YA shelves, and this element of the book fills a gap...the book helps illuminate how treatment of mental health in African American communities often lags behind that of white suburban communities. "—School Library Journal
Chicago Writers Association’s 2016 Book of the Year
LitPick Five-Star Book Review Award