A World Without You

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
A World Without You Book Poster Image
Reality and delusion mix in sensitive mental illness drama.

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Kids say

age 12+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A World Without You presents a fairly realistic picture of what it might be like to live in a mental health facility for teens. The subject of psychosis is handled with sensitivity.

Positive Messages

It is better to face reality than to indulge in delusions. Families can pull together to help each other through medical crises.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bo struggles with his mental illness and still manages to be hopeful and empathetic. His sister Phoebe tries to be supportive of him and the rest of their family, even though it comes at a personal cost to her.


There's little physical violence in A World Without You. Bo imagines himself in the middle of a Civil War battle and witnesses the hanging of a so-called witch.


Bo and Sofia are in love, but the physical aspect of their relationship is limited mostly to hand-holding and kissing.


Swearing ranges from a few dozen uses of "hell" and "damn" to less frequent use of "s--t," "bulls--t," "a--hole," "f--k," and "d--k."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One supporting character carries a cigarette lighter.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A World Without You is a compassionate and sensitive fictional account of teenage mental illness and how it affects the patient's family. The level of violence is low, primarily some graphic scenes from the past -- a Civil War battlefield and the hanging of a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. Bo and Sofia are in love with each other, but their relationship seems limited to kissing.

User Reviews

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Teen, 14 years old Written bybubblegum_girl March 28, 2018

Incredible book

A World Without You completely centers on mental illness and the effect it has on not only the person, but everyone around them. It can be disturbing, with suic... Continue reading

What's the story?

As A WORLD WITHOUT YOU opens, the students at Berkshire Academy are mourning the suicide of one of their classmates, Sofia. All except Bo, who's convinced that she's still alive. Bo believes he can travel through time, and that it's his fault Sofia's trapped in the past during the Salem witch trials. Even though he's convinced that the other Berkshire kids have superpowers that range from telepathy to pyrokinesis, he's determined to save Sofia himself, even if it means alienating himself from his friends and family and putting himself in grave danger.

Is it any good?

Writing realistically and compassionately about mental health issues requires sensitivity and talent, and this intricate, affecting, and surprising novel proves more than up to the task. Author Beth Revis writes convincingly from two perspectives, from that of Bo, embroiled in crisis, and that of his sister, Phoebe, who both loves and resents him for the turmoil that has overtaken their family. A World Without You offers few easy answers, but through its deft character work and careful plotting, the novel gives readers reason for hope.

Unfortunately, the jacket copy gives away many of the book's secrets. It is better to approach A World Without You without any preconceived notions as to what the story is really about.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the depiction of mental illness in A World Without You. What interventions are sometimes necessary for someone with depression, anxiety, psychosis, or schizophrenia?

  • Is it normal to feel resentment toward family members who are sick and need a lot of attention? What can be done to reduce family stress?

  • Why do superheroes play such a large part in popular culture? How might their fictional adventures help people cope with real problems?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love stories of mental illness

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