Archive for the ‘Depression’ Category

When We Collided by Emery Lord begins with Vivi throwing her pill over the cliff into the ocean and carving “Vivi Was Here” in an old tree trunk. From this beginning we, the readers, are waiting for the inevitable crash in Vivi’s life because we can make an educated guess as to what that pill was supposed to do.


Vivi should stand for vivacious (which according to the Merriam Webster dictionary derives from the Latin verb vivere or ‘to live’). She is the embodiment of it: sparkling, effervescent and spontaneous. And exactly the opposite of Jonah who, eight months after his father’s unexpected death, is trying with his two older siblings to keep the family of seven together. His mother stays in bed mostly. The ‘littles’ need to be dressed, fed, taken to school. Yet somehow this unlikely couple seems to work, partly because Vivi has seen some dark days.

Vivi is new to Verona Cove, having come from Seattle to spend the summer, and she loves it. It is a quaint little town; one you can really feel at home in, and Vivi wastes no time making her “Vivi Was Here” mark on the town. She inserts herself into the breakfast routine of loner police officer Hayashi while deciding to try the coffee shop breakfast menu in alphabetical order. She gets a job at the local potter’s shop. She envelopes Jonah’s family, having a profound impact on little Leah. Yet we know, the edge of the cliff is approaching.

Narrated in alternating first person chapters by Vivi and Jonah, When We Collided is the story of a remarkable girl and her impact on those around her. While having a major romantic element as do all of Emery Lord’s books, it also has a serious side to it as well, and in her Author’s Note at the end of When We Collided, Lord talks about mental illness, personalizes it, and provides relevant resources.

Emery Lord is part of my triumvirate of teen romance novelists, in the partnership of Sarah Dessen and Morgan Matson.  So I would heartily suggest you read Open Road Summer and The Start of Me and You. And in her author bio at the end of the book, she says she lives with a blind beagle and a spaniel, so she obviously loves dogs. My kind of person.


On a side note, Matson has a new book out entitled The Unexpected Everything. So there you have it. Your summer reading list has a great beginning.

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Victoria woke up in a white hospital bed. The problem is that she wasn’t supposed to wake up. The night before she took an overdose of sleeping pills that she’d been accumulating. She was found by the elderly Juanita, her nanna, who she deeply loved. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.

Books about attempted suicide, the post-attempt individual and group therapy sessions and the bonding of the teens in the group are not uncommon. However,  put in the hands of Francisco X. Stork (author of Marcelo in the Real World) The Memory of Light is more than a young adult novel about depression. One reason it that it is semi-autobiographical, as per the Author’s Note at the end of the book. Stork was 24 years old when he took 60 sleeping pills in his suicide attempt. That knowledge makes the book more meaningful.

Also, Stork has created a diverse cast of characters. Vicky’s roommate is Mona, who comes from a broken home and is searching for her little sister Lucy. She needs meds to control her mood swings. Gilbert hears voices and there is the fear that he is schizophrenic and E.M. has an uncontrolled temper.

The contrast in illnesses is also a contrast in life. Vicky seems to have the idyllic life–coming from a wealthy family, having everything she could possibly want, private school, plentiful opportunities. Gilbert, on the other hand, has to help his grandfather with his gardening business because Antonio is getting on in years and can’t do it by himself. Gilbert’s grandmother is showing the signs of schizophrenia that Gilbert is starting to exhibit. E.M. comes from a family in which his father physically abused his mother.

The Memory of Light is realistic in its depiction of mental illnesses. In its realism, there aren’t necessarily the happy endings we typically read. However, Stork provides hope to those individuals who accept and treat their illnesses, whether it is depression, schizophrenia, or a myriad other illnesses.

Stork implores teens, especially, who know or suspect something is wrong or who just know they are hurting to talk to an unbiased individual or professional, someone who won’t judge them. Mental illness knows no income or educational or racial boundaries. Sometimes the pressures of day to day life in school or at home are too much.

I could not put The Memory of Light down. It was that good.

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Mosquitoland‘Life is a journey, not a destination’ is one of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s well known remarks and is so true for Mosquitoland by David Arnold because the end is somewhat predictable and anticlimactic (however, there is a small surprise thrown in).

Mary Iris Malone (Mim) is the main character and for a while you are not sure of her age. The book begins with a letter she is writing on September 2 to an unknown Isabel. She explains that a month earlier her father, soon after a divorce from her mother Eve, married Kathy and moved the new family from Ashland, OH to Jackson, MI (Mosquitoland). She further explains that she was called into school principal Schwartz’s office of her new school but before entering she overhears a conversation he is having with Kathy and her father, Barry, in which she hears Kathy say that “We all just want Eve to get better, you know?”

From that small snippet of conversation, Mim deduces that Eve is ill and needs her help. On the spur of the moment she decides to go to her mother in Cleveland, calmly walks out of the school and heads home (hoping she’s got a reasonable head start before Kathy and Barry realize she is not appearing in the principal’s office). She steals a coffee can with money from Kathy’s dresser and heads to the Greyhound bus station, purchasing a ticket to Cleveland.

The remainder of the book is Mim’s accounting of her journey, interspersed with letters to Isabel and reminiscences of how ‘into the moment’ her mother was as contrasted with her father who was more straight-laced. Along the way she meets a variety of people beginning with Arlene, her seatmate on the bus who Mim describes as “…a Grande Dame from the Old School, if ever there was one”, Beckett Van Buren, her heartthrob, Walt a Down’s Syndrome boy she takes a liking to as well as a variety of malevolent creatures.

Of course there are a few epiphanies along the way about family and friends.

What makes this book so enjoyable is Arnold’s unique writing style. He knows how to turn a phrase, such as The Leaning Tower of Tuft, referring to the bus driver whose tuft of hair Mim sees before seeing the man himself.  Or here, in the second letter to Isabel, “I am a collection of oddities, a circus of neurons and electrons: my heart is the ringmaster, my soul is the trapeze artist, and the world is my audience. It sounds strange because it is, and it is, because I am strange.”

Mosquitoland is an enchanting journey with remarkable characters.

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Susan is the adventurous one. She’ll see a book cover that interests her, read the firstDrBird page or two and decide whether or not the book is worth reading. Me? I typically take my cues from reviews or favorite authors. So, it was odd that I’d just pick a book from Books of Wonder and decide to buy it based on the title and cover. But that’s exactly what I did and it was a good choice. (The other book I picked was from an author I like and it was somewhat disappointing.) Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos was a rewarding, humorous, serious book.

James Whitman, no relation to Walt, does have an affinity for Walt’s poetry and cites it often. James is a tree hugger, when he gets depressed. The shape, the bark, the roundness, the texture oftentimes makes him feel somewhat better. And James does have things to be depressed about. His father, the Brute, and his mother, the Banshee, are abusive. They’ve kicked his sister Jorie out of the house, ostensibly because she beat up another girl at school. But Jorie’s always been a problem.

When James needs to vent or think things out, he sees Dr. Bird, an imaginary pigeon therapist who knows all about James, as Dr. Bird is in his mind. Dr. Bird will walk in circles, coo at him, stick his beak under his wing and stare at him with his big black eye. This, too, seems to help James cope.

Like all high school juniors, James has anxiety…about school, about girls (especially Beth), about life, about his sister. Unfortunately, his anxiety extends far beyond that of most teens.

Mr. Roskos wonderfully handles the issue of anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide and cutting. He tells kids it’s not bad to have anxiety but too much is no good. He lets kids know that it’s OK to need someone independent to talk to about problems. He also lets kids know that they don’t necessarily have to live with abuse.

It’s Mr. Roskos’ combination of the serious and the absurd (James’ friend Derek being the absurd…I won’t tell you why) that caught my attention and kept me reading. There are some books that are ‘in your face’ about teen issues and there are those that get the point across more subtly, as is the case with Dr. Bird.

I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets. It’s probably low on most people’s radar but I hope this may bring it up a notch.

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