Sarah J. Carlson

Contemporary Young Adult Author

Everything’s Not Fine

Seventeen-year-old Rose Hemmersbach, who aspires to break out of small town Sparta, Wisconsin and achieve her artistic dreams at Belwyn School for the Arts. Painting is Rose’s escape from her annoying younger siblings and her family’s one rule: ignore the elephant in the room, because talking about it makes it real.


That is, until Rose finds her mother dying of a heroin overdose. Kneeling beside her, Rose pleads with the universe to find a heartbeat. She does – but when her mother is taken to the hospital, the troubles are just beginning. Rose and her dad are left to pick up the pieces. Now Rose doesn’t have room for schoolwork, let alone to pick up a paintbrush. Until she’s forced to do the homecoming mural with Rafa, a new senior at Sparta High. Rose and Rafa don’t have an ounce of school spirit between them, but Rose discovers her brain still has room to paint, and, as Rafa starts opening up to her, that she can open up to him too.

But as Rose fights to hold everything together, and her dreams of the future start to slip from her grasp, she must face the question of what happens when – if – her mom comes home again. And, deep down, if Rose even wants her to.

Praise for Everything’s Not Fine

Kirkus YA Best Books of 2020 About Finding Inner Strength

“Alive with vibrant, raw emotion.” Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“Along with the relatively uncommon theme or living with an addicted parent, this emotionally intense tale offers middle school and older readers an engaging picture of two teens circling and closing as they discover common ground.” School Library Journal

“If you’re looking for an age-appropriate book about what it’s like to experience family opioid addiction and eviction as a teenager, put this book on the top of your list. Author Sarah J Carlson is a school psychologist and she’s written a heart wrenching book on these timely topics. The book also incorporates the trauma involved with seeing a parent struggle with addiction. Also want to give a shout out for a fabulous friendship-turned-romance between Rose and Rafa. Grades 7+ ” Kidlit Exchange

“A gripping story about the bonds of family and addiction, Everything’s Not Fine showcases the power of love and resiliency. Rose’s story will take readers on an emotional journey that is, at times, gut-wrenching but ultimately hopeful.” Kimberly Gabriel, author of Every Stolen Breath

“A real and readable look at the impact of addiction and the secrets we carry. While shying away from easy answers, Carlson paints a gritty but beautiful portrait of the ties of both love and pain that bind a family.” Erin Stewart, author of Scars Like Wings

“Timely and important, this devastating depiction of parental addiction shows Rose’s struggles between love and anger. Carlson has infused a difficult topic with hope and grace.” Laura Sibson, author of The Art of Breaking Things

Everything’s Not Fine is out now.  Add it on Goodreads.