The Book of Jude

The Book of Jude

Kimberley Heuston

A young woman’s struggle against a debilitating psychological illness.

A compelling, often heartbreaking portrait of a brilliant young woman’s struggle against a debilitating psychological illness set against the events of the Prague Spring and the anti-Soviet struggles in Czecholoslovokia.
When Jude’s mother gets a fellowship to go to Prague to study, Jude’s world is thrown into chaos. The teenage girl feels threatened and isolated. It turns out her whole family is going, but still Jude feels adrift. When she arrives in Prague and discovers that their life in the embassy compound is closely circumscribed by rules and regulations and that they are closely watched at all times, she begins to suffer even more. Desperate to break out of the constraints imposed on her and her family, Jude sneaks out one night only to encounter a security crackdown on students and dissenters. Although she makes it home safely, her consciousness continues to deteriorate as she fluctuates in and out of rationality. Only when Jude steals a friend’s car and drives into the countryside does the true seriousness of her condition become apparent to her family. Then the long road to recovery begins.

  • Ages: 14 - 17
  • Grades: 9 - 12
  • Pages: 232

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Recent Reviews

Mental illness flares in a teenager transplanted from New York to Prague, and readers get the inside angle in this first-person historical novel from the author of The Shakeress (2002). ... Heuston constructs a solid cast and setting, against which her protagonist’s breakdown proceeds in a convincing way. Jude’s Mormon faith is a strong subsidiary element here, as well.


Jude’s inner turmoil will resonate with readers, and the wise philosophy of living a life in the midst of loss and oppression, offered by an elderly friend, is worth the price of admission.

—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

After her mother wins a scholarship to study in Czechoslovakia in 1989, Jude's family moves to Prague for a year. Dismayed and anxious about the move, 15-year-old Jude has terrifying hallucinations that she conceals from her loving, devout Mormon family. In Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia, which is also coming apart, Jude's emotional disintegration accelerates. She is mesmerized by the mass demonstrations and political repression, identifying passionately with the suffering she witnesses. Her rapid deterioration leads to a crisis and hospitalization. Diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, Jude is placed on medication and returned to her family in Prague where, far from cured, she continues her self-destructive behavior. Only when her father brings a Mormon bishop to bless her does Jude return to functional health.

—Kirkus Reviews

15-year-old Jude is devastated when she learns that her family will be moving to Prague for a year while her mother completes her art fellowship. Before they leave New York, she begins to act out with spells of anger, despair, and recklessness. Her arrival in Prague only magnifies these feelings as she realizes that Soviet Communist policies not only limit her freedoms, but have also wreaked misery and poverty on the people of Czechoslovakia. Angry and naive, Jude sneaks out of her house to see an anti-Soviet demonstration and is horrified by the violence she witnesses. Her uncontrolled actions begin to worry her family. Her break with reality is apparent when Jude flees to the countryside, wrecks a car, and winds up in a German hospital. Confronting her mental illness, Jude struggles to regain control of her life. The story starts off slowly as the teen leaves New York and the political and social details of Czechoslovakia are presented. While some less-savvy readers may be alienated by the historical context and setting, others will be drawn in as it becomes apparent that Jude is struggling with more than the usual teen angst. …what makes this novel unique is the context in which it takes place.

—School Library Journal

Honors for The Book of Jude

  • Best Kids Books of the Year—Washington Post
  • Best Children's Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education