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Archive for the ‘Suicide’ Category

I love poetry. I hate poetry. I love poetry. I hate poetry….I love poetry that I can understand, AndWeStaynot those deep poems with hidden meanings. And for some inexplicable reason, it is comforting to both write and read poetry.

In And We Stay, Jennifer Hubbard’s second novel after Paper Covers Rock, Emily Beam’s ex-boyfriend, Paul, shoots himself in the school library while standing in front of her. Did he mean to do it all along? Did the fact that she broke up with him two days before (on her birthday, December 10) spur him to do it, or was it inevitable? In the aftermath of this tragedy, Emily’s parents enroll her in Amherst School for Girls, hundreds of miles away from what appears to be their Midwest home (although the state is never mentioned).

There’s always a story surrounding a mid-year transfer, but Emily doesn’t want to share her secret(s). She stays aloof from her roommate, K.T. and other kids in school. However, when a teacher gives her a book of poems by Emily Dickinson, it reinvigorates Emily’s B.’s poetic desires. She becomes obsessed and inspired by Ms. Dickinson, who shares birthdays with our Emily.

In a marvelous fashion combining prose and poetry, Jennifer Hubbard fleshes out Emily Beam. In flashbacks, she recreates Emily and Paul’s relationship, how it started and what led to that fateful event. She describes Emily’s growth and her ultimate connection to her new schoolmates. Her poems are beautiful and add an aura to the story that would be sorely missed without them. Emily, K.T., Paul and all the supporting characters have real personalities. Emily’s transformation is evident.

I wasn’t sure I was going to like And We Stay, and despite all the positive reviews, I hesitantly began reading, at which point I was sold. And We Stay should be on everyone’s reading list.

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I’m on a roll here. The last three books I read are about:

1. Driving a car off a bridge, killing the passenger and leaving the seventeen year old driver with serious injuries and amnesia.LoudAwake

AndWeStay

2. A teenager shooting himself in the school library in front of his former girlfriend (they broke up 2 days earlier), leaving her emotionally scarred, and

3. A teenager cutting herself.KissOfBrokenGlass

I can’t imagine what’s next. Should I reread Wintergirls and read about eating disorders? I probably need something more upbeat, don’t you think?

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ThisSongWillSaveYourLifeSince this was in last Sunday’s New York Times book review, I thought I’d add my two cents.

In this debut novel by Leila Sales, sixteen-year-old Elise Dembowski is invisible most of the time and taunted the other times. A driven teenager, she spent the summer reading teen and fashion magazines, listening to gossip, learning how to dress and what to talk about, all in the hopes that come September she’d fit in, have friends. However, on the first day of school, nothing has changed, so she left early, went home and feebly attempted suicide by slitting her wrists. Sitting in the bathroom bleeding through a bandage she put on, she called a girl she wanted to be friends with, Amelia Kindl, who immediately called 911, which started a chain of events including therapy.

Fast forward seven months and Elise (still nothing has changed), who splits her time between her divorced parents’ houses, finds it hard to sleep so she sneaks out at night to walk the neighborhood. One night two girls beckon her over, thinking she was looking for the dance club, Start. Following them inside, Elise is in awe and, getting introduced to the DJ, realizes that’s something she would love to do.

I must say that This Song Will Save Your Life reminded DerbyGirlme a bit of Derby Girl by Shauna Cross, which I really liked (young misfit teen finds something she’s passionate about but is too young to pursue it without parental consent). Readers will immediately like Elise and feel her pain. They’ll also like Vicki (read the book to find out who she is). They’ll understand Elise’s desire for recognition, acceptance, friends and her inability, at times, to recognize who her friends really are. Sales is a talented writer and if this book is any indication, I can’t wait for her next book. It’s a fun story on a serious issue.

And….there’s a bonus; a playlist at the back of the book. So, now I’m off to find some CDs with songs mentioned on the playlist.

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There is something so sad about If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin. Having lived IfHeHadBeenWithMea good portion of my life already, it saddens me to see or read of wasted time, things that should be that aren’t. Nowlin’s book describes just that. Autumn and Finny lived next door to each other since birth. Their moms are best friends and it was always their hope that their children would take their own best friendship one step further. But you know how middle school and high school blur the ‘what should be’ with cliques and odd friendships and boyfriends and girlfriends, so that what should be doesn’t happen or is delayed.

So it is with Autumn and Finny. They get sidetracked. The sad part is that one word from either of them would get them back on track, but that doesn’t happen. And so we follow Autumn and her friends from eighth grade through high school graduation, the getting togethers and the breakups and the sex and the drinking…and mostly Autumn’s epiphany about Finny and her regrets.

And while If He Had Been With Me is nicely written and the main characters come to life, there were things that bothered me, although probably minor things. (1) None of these high school kids had summer jobs. They basically spend the summers bumming around, going to the mall, and drinking a bit. These are the cream of the crop, honors students. No summer jobs? It seems odd to me. (2) So little talk about college and where everyone should go so that they could maintain their relationships. Honors students are obsessed with college. Not these, however.  (3) The ending. I won’t tell you about it, but I couldn’t get my hands around it. Sorry. Some may find it sweet. Some may ask why. Some may groan. I was the guy who asked ‘why’? Why that? Couldn’t it have been different? The whole thing doesn’t ring true. (I guess your opinion might help me accept the ending…or not.)

I admit something about the book compelled me to keep reading, to find out what disaster occurred because you know from the beginning that a disaster occurs, but you don’t know why. Maybe I could have gotten there faster. Maybe I was tired of Autumn and Finny’s reticence to make the move. I don’t know.

You might say after reading this that I’m ambivalent about the book and as I write this, I guess I am. Don’t get me wrong. I liked it, it’s just that I was bothered by the things I mentioned earlier. Was anyone else bothered?

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ForgiveMeLeonardPeacockI will admit that I didn’t immediately like Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. However, I will also admit that it grew on me. It is Leonard’s 18th birthday and no one remembered. His father is theoretically in jail in South America. His mother, a fashion designer shacked up with some Frenchman, lives in New York while Matthew lives on his own in New Jersey. His only true friend is Walt, the old man next door, with whom he watches old black and white Humphrey Bogart movies.

So, Leonard decides to make this birthday worth remembering. First he’ll kill his former best friend, Asher Beal, and then he’ll off himself using a P-38 WW II Nazi handgun his grandfather took off of a German soldier. But first he has to hand out four presents to people he likes, leaving one for his mother in the refrigerator.

It takes more than half the book before Quick finally tells you why Leonard wants to kill Asher. Before that point, you, to some extent, thinks he’s an asshole (excuse my French), a spoiled kid who got his way all the time and, while ignored by his mother, still doesn’t have much to complain about. However, there is a valid reason Leonard is the way he is.

Quick is a good writer and Leonard’s story could have turned out less compelling in another’s hands. Leonard has serious issues and while all the ‘warning signs’ are there, no one seems to take them seriously, except his Holocaust studies teacher, Herr Silverman. There are reasons for abrupt changes in personality, be it Asher’s or Leonard’s, and they must be taken seriously. Quick points out the amazing good that comes from just one person caring about another, going out of his way to help someone. He also shows what a boy floundering around looks like, one who feels that life has no purpose.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is certainly not an uplifting book, but it’s well worth the investment.

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