Tag Archive: suicide


and we stay

And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

Emily has been sent to a private board school in Amherst so that she doesn’t have to face all of the questions at her public high school.  Her boyfriend, Paul, brought a gun to school.  Emily is sure that Paul never meant to hurt her, though he did threaten her with the gun.  She is also sure that he never planned to kill himself with it, though that is what he did.  At her private school, she doesn’t quite fit in.  She doesn’t wear the right shoes and her reluctance to talk about what happened and why she is there mid-term doesn’t lead others to get closer to her.  Emily finds herself more and more interested in Emily Dickinson whose home is in Amherst.  She starts writing poems herself, putting her grief and confusion on the page in poems that she plans to never share with anyone.  But as the days go by, she becomes closer with her room mate and other girls on campus, including one of the teachers.  It is now up to Emily to figure out how much she is willing to share of her own role in Paul’s death.

Hubbard’s writing is crystalline and brilliant.  She captures the stunned nature of sudden loss with clarity and understanding.  Emily could easily have become and inaccessible character to readers as well since she is prickly and shut down.  Instead though, Hubbard creates a space around Emily for readers to understand her and feel her pain.

A large part of this is through her poems which honor Dickinson, follow her structure and voice closely at times, and other times reveal Emily’s soul in brief lines that shine.  These poems serve as islands in a sea of pain and grief.  They are concrete and dazzlingly good.  They are bright with hope as one can see in each one Emily moving forward toward the future after putting her pain on the page. 

Beautiful writing, a strong heroine, and plenty of poetry make this a very unique and exceptional book about loss and suicide.  Appropriate for ages 14-16.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and NetGalley.

More Than This by Patrick Ness

more than this

More Than This by Patrick Ness

Released September 10, 2013.

After Seth drowns, bones smashed against rocks, muscles clenching in the icy water, he wakes up.  He is naked except for some bandages and very weak, but most disturbing, he is back in England at his childhood home.  A home that contains many of the worst memories of his life, except for his most recent ones.  There is no one else around, even the insects are silent and no birds or planes fly overhead.  Seth is completely alone in a world that is covered with dust and dirt.  Seth can’t sleep either because whenever he does, memories sweep over him, specifically ones that he would prefer to never remember and it’s as if he was living them all over again.  Is this the afterlife?  His own personal hell?  Seth has to first figure out how to survive and then start finding answers.

Ness creates a world, a hell, an afterlife, a future that is breathtakingly haunting.  It is profoundly empty, amazingly personal, and intensely confusing.  Readers who enter this book will be taken on a journey that is astonishing.  It is a puzzle that they will solve along with Seth and the answer will be astonishing.  I don’t want to give things away because the book is such a journey to the truth.

Ness writes powerfully of first loves, suicide and having to life with one’s decisions.  Seth’s death in the water is described in great detail, each moment captures, each pain explored.  As the memories flash into his head, the reader starts to understand what drove Seth to kill himself but also other deep truths about Seth and his life. 

Complex, gritty and profoundly beautiful, this book is a wonder of writing.  It is beyond inventive, taking readers to a place they never expected to find.  You are in the hands of a master storyteller here in one of his best books yet.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Candlewick Press.

forgive me leonard peacock

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

No one remembers Leonard’s 18th birthday, not even his mother who is busy with her new French boyfriend in New York City.  Leonard has big birthday plans.  He has presents for four of his closest friends.  He also has a present for his ex best friend, a bullet.  Specifically, a bullet right in his face.  Then Leonard will finish his birthday night by killing himself too.  First though, Leonard has to hand out his presents.  There is one for Walt, his next-door neighbor with whom Walt watches Bogart movies.  One for Lauren, the Christian homeschooler who tried to convert Leonard but only got him to lust after her more.  One for Baback, the gifted violinist whose practice sessions Leonard finds solace in.  And finally, one for Herr Silverman, the only teacher Leonard finds inspiring at all.  The story takes place all in one day filled with tension, hope and honesty.

Quick has created such a great character in Leonard.  Leonard is often arrogant, violently depressed, isolated, completely lonely, and yet infinitely human as well.  While he looks down on his classmates and most of his teachers, as his motivation is slowly revealed to the reader, it all makes sense.  Leonard is a puzzle that the reader gets to solve, and yet he remains complicated still. 

A book like this can be so dark there is not even a glimmer of light, but Quick shines light throughout if you are watching for it.  By the end of the book, you know that Leonard can be alright, if he just allows himself to believe it.  Quick has also written a great character who is a testimony to the role of teachers in teens’ lives.  Herr Silverman puts his own career in jeopardy to help Leonard, making him a hero in every sense of the word.  He is selfless and courageous, and it is clear from the first time he enters the book that he will either save Leonard or Leonard is beyond saving entirely. 

Harrowing, frightening and astonishingly hopeful, this book is a strong and passionate look at a boy willing to destroy everything, especially himself.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Little, Brown.

butter

Butter by Erin Jade Lange

Bullied because of his weight, Butter eats alone at a table with a special bench in the cafeteria.  He sits alone in each class, thanks to his specialized desks.  His parents struggle with his weight to, his mother continuing to try to get him healthy food and his father basically not speaking to him at all.  Butter’s one big connection is with his online girlfriend who doesn’t realize who he is and who is starting to pressure him to meet in person.  As Butter’s life continues to become more and more bleak, he makes a desperate decision: to eat himself to death on the Internet.  When he makes the threat, Butter suddenly gets attention from some of the most popular boys in school.  Suddenly, Butter has friends, a group of kids that includes the bully who gave Butter his name.  But as the day gets closer, Butter begins to wonder if he really wants to commit suicide and how he will survive at school if he doesn’t go through with it.

This book has such a strong premise with the overweight teen bullied into committing suicide in the most humiliating way possible.  What I didn’t expect though was to completely fall for Butter.  Butter is big yes, but in so many more ways that his physical size.  He has a huge sense of humor.  He has an enormous musical talent.  Best of all, Butter is completely human, not stereotypical in any way. 

Lange’s writing skill takes this book from what could have been a morose and vicious read and turns it into a book that really explores the levels of bullying, ranging from a single cruel and inhuman attack to the more subtle and even more dangerous support for self harm.  Along the way, Butter will become dear the reader, as his death approaches, Butter’s dark friendship with the boys buoys his spirits, but readers will continue to see through it even when Butter can’t. 

This is not a book you can put down, because you will have to see how it ends but also because Butter himself is a compelling protagonist.  From its timely anti-bullying message to the thrill of the Internet both for dating and humiliation, this book is a great teen read.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Bloomsbury.

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