Category Archives: Suicide

[Audiobook] Permanent Record by Leslie Stella

Published March 2013 by Skyscape
Narrated by Nick Podehl | Brilliance Audio
282 pages | 7 hours 53 minutes
website | twitter | facebook | audible
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Purchased ecopy & audio
Rating: Loved | Loved Audio

Being yourself can be such a bad idea.

For sixteen-year-old Badi Hessamizadeh, life is a series of humiliations. After withdrawing from public school under mysterious circumstances, Badi enters Magnificat Academy. To make things “easier,” his dad has even given him a new name: Bud Hess. Grappling with his Iranian-American identity, clinical depression, bullying, and a barely bottled rage, Bud is an outcast who copes by resorting to small revenges and covert acts of defiance, but the pressures of his home life, plummeting grades, and the unrequited affection of his new friend, Nikki, prime him for a more dangerous revolution. Strange letters to the editor begin to appear in Magnificat’s newspaper, hinting that some tragedy will befall the school. Suspicion falls on Bud, and he and Nikki struggle to uncover the real culprit and clear Bud’s name.

Permanent Record explodes with dark humor, emotional depth, and a powerful look at the ways the bullied fight back. (Source: Goodreads)

Lucy @ The Reading Date‘s review roused my affinity for stories about bullying and Iranian-Americans. Being a social studies teacher-reader, PERMANENT RECORDs mix of rich topics that could use an open dialogue and empathy led to my purchase of the book and then the audio.

It does not disappoint. PERMANENT RECORD has a similar feel of favorites, like Looking for Alaska, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and the The Silver Linings Playbook, but LESLIE gives a unique and authentic lens to experience all the frustrations of Badi’s coming of age. Some of his struggles with friends, love, bullying and family are similar to any other teen, which makes him completely connectable to the reader. But he does have the additional issues of cultural expectations and nuances that make things harder for Badi.

You enter Badi’s life in the wake of his attempted suicide. Though I agreed with Badi’s anger about his parents changing his name to Bud Hess, I was hopeful for his new start at Magnificat’s Academy. And in the beginning it was promising, he found friends that appreciated his wit and quirks. It doesn’t take too long for things to seemingly spin out of control. Badi has found a home on the newspaper, but this emboldens him to speak his mind and not remain invisible. The problem is this coincides with the traditional chocolate bar sales that support only a portion of the student body, obviously not his particular slice of Magnificat. As Badi’s refusal to participate in the fundraiser becomes known, someone decides to throw super octane fuel on the fire. A series of anonymous letters lambasting the Academy’s treatment of lesser clubs has everyone pointing the finger at Badi.

NICK PODEHL captured Badi’s experience. He took me there. I could see and feel Badi’s frustration, outrage, angst and teenage indifference. NICK didn’t lose sight of the lighter and hopeful moments either. But as things became more volatile, his pace and tension matched it. I wasn’t going anywhere. He also beautifully portrayed Badi’s family, their accents and their dynamic within their unit. NICK dialed in on the particular douchiness of Badi’s terrorizers and concern of his friends. His females didn’t lack either. I’ll be looking for more of his narrations in the future.

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[Audiobook] Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Published October 2007 by Razorbill
Narrated by Debra Wiseman & Joel Johnstone | Listening Library
304 pages | 6:24:00 duration
website | twitter | facebook | book website
Genre: Contemporary | Big Issue
Source: Purchased Hardcopy | Audio from Library
Rating: Loved | Audio Loved

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers. (Source: Goodreads)

THIRTEEN REASONS WHY has been challenged on the basis that it is inappropriate for its age group and for content discussing “drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide.” (Source: Christian Science Monitor)

I purchased this book over three years ago. The same year my town experienced three teen suicides. I knew it was a book I needed to read, a voice I needed to hear and a book I needed to get on our library’s shelves. But I just couldn’t bring myself to pick it up. I don’t know how many of you peruse your shelves looking for the perfect suicide book to read, but that isn’t me. I just couldn’t bring myself to pick it up. But I try to read as many challenged books as possible every year and this one stood out as a must.

Luckily, my library had the audiobook and it was the perfect way to walk with Hannah as she tells her story. The story that ultimately leads to her suicide. It is a story everyone should hear. Some of the things that happen to Hannah seem so ordinary or even typical, but their cumulative effect cripples her. It vividly shows how something meant as a joke or simply not thinking about the impact on the other person can have a dramatic snowball effect. And before long, she feels like she can’t even trust the good things.

DEBRA WISEMAN was amazing. Her voice was so haunting. Not because it was creepy or ghostly, but because it was totally calculated and rational. By the time Hannah made the tapes, the debate was over. She had already looked over and over the events of her life and thought long about her solution. So that coolness just slightly laced with hurt made you feel her resolution that enough is enough. And the fact that you were listening to the tapes just as Clay would was powerful. JOEL JOHNSTONE played Clay perfectly. He is the all-American good kid. He liked Hannah from a far and is desperately scared to find out his role in her suicide. With each event, his heart aches for her. You can feel his desperation and desire to bridge the void, to make that connection, to not let Hannah push him away and punish every offender on the tapes.

THIRTEEN REASONS WHY reminded me that the little things do matter. Trust your instinct. If you think something is wrong, there probably is. Don’t let people drift farther away into isolation. Be the person that chases them down the hall to show you care.

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Hopeless by Colleen Hoover

Hopeless #1
Published December 2012
391 pages
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Genre: mature YA/New Adult Contemporary Big Issue & Romance
Series: #1 Hopeless* | #2 Untitled (July 2013)
Source: Purchased
Rating: LOVED IT

Sometimes discovering the truth can leave you more hopeless than believing the lies…

That’s what seventeen-year-old Sky realizes after she meets Dean Holder. A guy with a reputation that rivals her own and an uncanny ability to invoke feelings in her she’s never had before. He terrifies her and captivates her all in the span of just one encounter, and something about the way he makes her feel sparks buried memories from a past that she wishes could just stay buried.

Sky struggles to keep him at a distance knowing he’s nothing but trouble, but Holder insists on learning everything about her. After finally caving to his unwavering pursuit, Sky soon finds that Holder isn’t at all who he’s been claiming to be. When the secrets he’s been keeping are finally revealed, every single facet of Sky’s life will change forever. (Source: Goodreads)

In the opening scene of Hopeless, you are thrust into mid-crisis. There is kicking, crashing, and screaming. In the moment the hysteria is subdued, you are left with only a few words that will have you trying to reconcile it with the story you are sent back in time to witness.

Sky is a very confident and interesting girl. She is going to start her first year of public school as a senior after being home-schooled her entire life by her adopted mother. Her house has no electronics. No computer. No TV. No cell phone. Her best friend and connection to all things teenage normal is headed off to Europe for six months to study abroad. So she is left to navigate high school alone. Though she walks into school with a built-in reputation as a slut, courtesy of her best friend, she handles it amazingly well. She isn’t caught up in the usual angst, because for some reason she feels comfortably numb around boys.

Dean has a reputation of his own. The rumor is that he spent the last year in juvie after almost beating another boy to death. He is back in town with his bad reputation and toying with dropping out all together. Oddly when Sky bumps into him, he is the first guy to illicit a physical reaction from her. She can’t wrap her brain around why he makes her feel. She is a good girl and doesn’t do bad and sure doesn’t do dropouts or hopeless.

But Sky can’t deny the attraction and gives into the possibility of Dean. Their relationship is sweet and charming with spikes of volatility and moments that scream things aren’t what they seem. On more than one occasion, warnings were going off in my head that Sky should stay away from Dean all together. I wasn’t sure how to take their quick developing intimacy. You want to get caught up in the tenderness. But as the puzzle pieces in the back of your mind try to maneuver themselves into place, Sky’s world shatters.

Neither character will escape tragedy. It is so heart breaking. I think I was almost too horrified to even weep. It was almost too much for a person to handle. And it made me so sad to think that this story might not all be any one person’s tragedy, but every piece has been someone’s. But Colleen’s tale is so beautifully crafted. The beauty is in how each new piece of the story comes to light then twists to fit itself into the overall puzzle. I sometimes could add a new piece, but it never fit quite the way I envisioned it. Hopeless tackles big issues in a mature way. In the end, I was so happy that each had someone to hold their hand and share their grief every step of the way. I walked away from the book thankful for the sky and its beauty and the hope it provides.

Love can always find a way to make hopeless into hopeful.

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Cracked by K.M. Walton

Published January 3, 2012 by SimonPulse
311 pages
website | twitter
Source: DAC Book Tours
Challenges: Debut Author & Standalone 2012
Rating: Loved It

Victor hates his life. He has no friends, gets beaten up at school, and his parents are always criticizing him. Tired of feeling miserable, Victor takes a bottle of his mother’s sleeping pills—only to wake up in the hospital.
Bull is angry, and takes all of his rage out on Victor. That makes him feel better, at least a little. But it doesn’t stop Bull’s grandfather from getting drunk and hitting him. So Bull tries to defend himself with a loaded gun.
When Victor and Bull end up as roommates in the same psych ward, there’s no way to escape each other or their problems. Which means things are going to get worse—much worse—before they get better…(Source: Goodreads)

This sad story starts at home. Both of these boys suffer at the hands of the people at home that blame their very existence for their own unhappiness. Though Victor lives in a 5 bedroom house and Bull doesn’t even have his own room, their stories of mental and physical abuse are horrifying. The physical beatings Bull endures at the hands of his grandfather made me worry for his life. The verbal abuse Victor’s parents unleashed created a boy who became invisible. So invisible, that he thought knew no one would miss him if he committed suicide.

Compound this story with Victor allowing himself to be victimized at the hands of Bull at school since kindergarten. Do you think that their sucky home lives’ spilled into school a bit?

Walton’s phenomenal debut novel is told in alternating voice, between Victor and Bull. This makes for a quick read. I finished it in one sitting, easily caught up in wanting to know what the other one was thinking each time. It is obvious that Walton has done her research or seen it first hand as a teacher. I’ve sat through many trainings myself on the topics of bullying and suicide. The most common ingredient to successful suicide is not feeling like you will be missed by anyone. I came home and gave my child more chores and told her how much I loved her and would miss her dearly that day.

These boys do end up in the same rehab room. I was predicting some kind of mushy revelation. Thank goodness I was wrong. Their five-day stay in the psych ward felt very real to me. Stubbornness. Anger. Lots of Crying. Healing. It starts with one person in the psych ward for each of our broken boys. One person that might actually care that they are alive. Someone that makes you feel worthy. Worthy of fighting back. Not to be invisible or the asshole anymore.

“Just be happy. Stay alive. You’re worth it.”

I recommend this book to YAers, parents, and school staff. Everyone needs to pull the blinders off to the ugliness of abuse and bullying. Everyone has the duty to recognize and the power to reach out. It only takes one person offering love, hope and not allowing that kid to be invisible to save that person. They are worth it.

A novel of how words hurt and love can heal.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Published March 2005 by Puffin/Penguin/Speak
Format: paperback, 221 pages
Link: website | twitter | youtube
Source: own, Half-Price Books purchase

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. A stunning debut, it marks John Green’s arrival as an important new voice in contemporary fiction. (Source: Goodreads)

What better way to kick off John Green Week, than by honoring his debut novel. I fell in love on my first exposure. I checked out Will Grayson, Will Grayson from the library. I had no idea what it was really about or what to expect. I was blown away. I have said many times that I have the sense of humor of an 18-year-old boy. And it was never more evident, then when I caught myself laughing out loud at witty, cynical dialogue.

Miles leaves public school where he had resigned himself to not care about friends or adventures, because he didn’t fit. We follow him off to an Alabama boarding school hoping to find some type of fulfillment or the “Great Perhaps.” He finds a school much like his public school. There are similar cliques. But this is where Mile’s luck changes. He is thrown into an odd Breakfast Club-eque group of friends.

“How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!”–Simon Bolivar’s last words

Miles experiences life…smoking, alcohol, and pranks. Smart kids being smart, but being teenagers. Dealing with the baggage of poverty, death, abandonment and failure. Dealing with social hierarchies. Worrying about grades. Boyfriends and Girlfriends. What it means to be a friend? Ultimately this group of young adults are trying to navigate the labyrinth seeking a sense of understanding and happiness.

Not only do did I love this group of kids, I loved the teachers that helped them along their way. Often teachers are painted with the broad brush stroke of incompetence and unfeeling. From the Eagle, who busted the kids for breaking the rules, to the Old Man, who pushed them to question belief systems to find their own understanding, it was obvious that they loved the kids and really sought to guide them in their path to be the adults they were meant to be.

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Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Published May 1, 2011 by Harlequin Teen 336 pages

Source: NetGalley

‘If she’d waited less than two weeks, she’d be June who died in June. But I guess my sister didn’t consider that.’

Harper Scott’s older sister has always been the perfect one so when June takes her own life a week before her high school graduation, sixteen-year-old Harper is devastated. Everyone’s sorry, but no one can explain why.

When her divorcing parents decide to split her sister’s ashes into his-and-her urns, Harper takes matters into her own hands. She’ll steal the ashes and drive cross-country with her best friend, Laney, to the one place June always dreamed of going California.

Enter Jake Tolan. He’s a boy with a bad attitude, a classic-rock obsession and nothing in common with Harper’s sister. But Jake had a connection with June, and when he insists on joining them, Harper’s just desperate enough to let him. With his alternately charming and infuriating demeanour and his belief that music can see you through anything, he might be exactly what she needs.

Except June wasn’t the only one hiding something. Jake’s keeping a secret that has the power to turn Harper’s life upside down again. (Source: Goodreads)

You enter the book in the wake of June’s suicide. How does Harper, the mess up, fill the gap between herself and perfect June? Escape. Cleaning up June’s old stuff leads her on a path of discovery. Was June happy? How hard did she work to be perfect? Did she have a friend to vent to? Unanswered questions, a mixed CD, and June’s unrealized goal of going to school in California is a good enough reason for a roadtrip. Escape her churchy, busy body Aunt…drunk, withdrawn mother…skirt chasing absent father…and set off for much-needed discovery.

Hannah Harrington crafted a road trip with all the classic elements. Friends. Harper has Laney her very best friend. Music. Jake provides the backdrop for not so mindless conversations as they head west. Discovery. Harper tries to understand who her sister really was and what drove her to the point of suicide. Harper also looks inward to her own defenses. Is it fun living behind all those walls? Laney deals with her absentee parents and some heavy issues. Jake. Jake provides a nice conduit for everyone to work through things, but he has his own. June helped him learn how to dream and that scares him. He has always been the bad boy mess up.

The Three Amigos traipse across the US protesting, dancing, crying, laughing, singing until they reach California. In California, questions have been answered. Check. Check. Check. Then a bomb is dropped on Harper. She has to travel back home and figure out how her story is going to go.

I couldn’t put this book down. I felt comfortable hanging out with Harper. Hannah did a great job of using her to show how suicide affects those left behind. If those that were hurting knew how much they were really loved and really not alone, maybe there would be fewer. This is a must read.