Mental Health at the Brake Fast: Author Guest Post by Renee Beauregard Lute

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It's a time to shed the stigma, to acknowledge the struggles, and to celebrate the brave steps taken every day towards better mental health. Whether you're navigating your own mental health journey or supporting someone who is, books are a wonderful tool for finding the ways to express how you're feeling and fostering empathy. We invited author Renee Beauregard Lute, author of the upcoming middle grade title Dinner at the Brake Fast to share insight into her own journey as well as the inspiration behind her book.

If you're interested in more books for your readers about mental health, head over to our round up blog post for titles for every age group.

I’ve always loved books about characters with warm, loving families. Regardless of whether money is tight and there’s a war going on (Little Women), or money is tight and the immigration experience requires an incredible amount of resilience (Front Desk), or money is tight and navigating social norms proves to be more difficult than your big sister would have you believe (nearly all of the Ramona Quimby books), these warm, loving families are there to support the protagonist and one another as they take on all of the challenges in their respective books. I love to see it. I love to read it. I love to write it, too.

In my new middle grade novel, Dinner at the Brake Fast, twelve-year-old Tacoma Jones lives in and helps run a truck stop diner in North Bend, Washington with her mom and dad. Her dad has depression, and on particularly hard days, Tacoma and her mom manage the diner while Dad rests upstairs. In writing this novel, I wanted to show a warm and loving family that navigates a parent’s mental illness together.

The Ultra-Spooky Snoqualmie Tunnel

Tacoma knows that she can’t fix her dad’s mental health. That’s not how depression works. But she does think she might be able to bring him a little joy—by stealing back one of his prized possessions, and by cooking the best dinner the Brake Fast has ever seen.

And as Tacoma takes off on an unexpectedly wild adventure (involving new friends, the ultra-spooky Snoqualmie Tunnel, a villainous trucker, and a murder rooster), it becomes evident that she herself struggles with anxiety. To slow down her thoughts and get through her anxiety attacks, Tacoma remembers the family therapy sessions she and her mom attended with her dad when he was going through a particularly rough stretch with his depression, and she utilizes some incredibly useful grounding tools. The same grounding tools that Tacoma uses—name five things you see, then five things you hear, then five things you feel—are the ones my therapist gave to me, and they’re the same ones I use whenever anxiety or panic creep up on me, too.

One of the best things I’ve learned to do for myself in therapy is to treat my own depression almost like a cold. Rest. Drink tea. Give myself time. After a while, I won’t feel like that anymore. With his family’s help, Tacoma’s dad gets the same treatment. When he needs to stay in bed and get through the harder days, Tacoma brings him a cup of black tea with milk and honey. Since that’s what people drink when their bodies don’t feel good, when they’ve got a cold or the flu, she makes sure Dad can drink it when his thoughts don’t feel good. He’s got a therapist who gives him necessary tools, he has medicine that helps, and he has a warm and loving family to help take on life’s challenges.

In their cozy home (truly, what is cozier than living in the upstairs of a truck stop diner in Washington State?), in their loving family, depression and anxiety are just a small part of a rich and incredibly full life.

About the Author

Renee Beauregard Lute is the author of The Exceptional Maggie Chowder. She lives in a blue house outside of Seattle with her husband, three young children, two cats, and one cockapoo. Renee writes a lot, reads a lot, and loves exploring Washington State, which is just about her favorite place (next to Disneyland). You can find her making weird faces at her laptop in various coffee shops. Visit her online at

About the Book

Dinner at the Brake Fast is a hilarious and heartfelt story about road-trip mishaps, a murderous rooster, facing down anxieties, and unexpected friendship that is a must-pick for readers who loved The Science of Unbreakable Things and The First Rule of Punk.

Tacoma Jones loves working at her family’s roadside diner, the Brake Fast, pouring coffee and serving eggs and muffins to truckers all day long. But tonight, she is finally going to break out her collection of cookbooks and prepare the best dinner the state of Washington has ever seen.

But her excitement is dampened when she learns that today is one of Dad’s bad days, when his depression makes it hard for him to get out of bed.

Tacoma knows she can’t fix her dad’s depression. But what she can do is steal back his prized photograph of his second-best day from her nemesis, the nasty Crocodile Kyle—while also planning a dinner that is sure to brighten up his bad day.

She just might need an accomplice or two to pull off the heist. . . .

Praise for Dinner at the Brake Fast!

"Rich characterizations, an electrifyingly original yet believable plot, and a perceptive voice distinguishes this captivating road trip tale. With standout compassion and candor, Lute explores the sometimes heartbreaking reality of living with a depressed parent and the joy that friends and cooking can bring."
  — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A sweet, far-from-bland tale rich in food, family, and freshly made friendships."
  — Booklist (starred review)