- Age Range: 12 and up
- Grade Level: 7 and up
- Lexile Measure: 670L (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (November 13, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1416954899
- ISBN-13: 978-1416954897
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.4 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,815,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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My Beautiful Failure Hardcover – November 13, 2012
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“FEELING DESPERATE? CALL US NOW.” When sophomore Billy Morrison reads the sign for the Listener’s suicide hotline, he is brought back to the previous winter, when his father suffered through a deep depression, and Billy supported him through long hours. Thinking that he has the listening skills needed for the volunteer hotline, Billy signs up, and one regular caller, Jenney, calls Billy “Hallmark” for the warm feelings he brings. Soon Billy begins obsessing over Jenney, even as he worries that his father’s antidepressants have triggered a manic episode that is manifesting in all-night painting sessions. While Billy is confident that his judgment concerning both Jenney and his father is sound, the reader is clued into Billy’s self-serving, immature diagnosis. The insider view of a suicide hotline is a poignant one. Like the realistic novels of Todd Strasser, this compelling title places a young person in a moral quandary that could literally mean the difference between life and death. Grades 8-11. --Diane Colson
"The emotional resonance here is complex and multifaceted, melancholy even where there's hope and hopeful in the midst of melancholy; readers will be thinking about this one long after they close the book."
"The insider view of a suicide hotline is a poignant one. Like the realistic novels of Todd Strasser, this compelling title places a young person in a moral quandary that could literally mean the difference between life and death."
"The heavy subjects of mental illness and suicide are deftly handled with a surprisingly light touch. Recommended"
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Top customer reviews
Billy wants to be a psychologist and he's practically an expert already. After his dad's bout of clinical depression last year, Billy knows he'll be the best volunteer The Listeners, a depression/suicide hotline, has ever had, even better than the adults and college students who've had a lot of training and experience. He eagerly anticipates calls from a suicidal people, but mostly ends up talking to people just having a bad day. Then he answers Jenney's call nod slowing gets drawn into her drama. Soon he's bending guidelines, because surely those rules never anticipated a situation quite like the relationship he has with Jenney. At home, Billy worries his father is showing signs of a manic bipolar, he throws The Listener's rules out the windows and begins confiding in Jenney.
In this sequel to THE OPPOSITE OF MUSIC, Billy is a year older and a thousand times wiser in his own mind. Parentified the year before taking care of his dad, he hasn't been able to let go of his role as protector and caretaker. He comes across as critical and negative of his dad, and not always likable, although his head and heart are in the right place. If his parents had recognized he needed therapy to help process the PTSD he had from the last year, Billy could have gotten much needed support and help. Readers may want to grab him and scream, "You don't know what you don't know" but his attitudes are so typically adolescent. Janet Ruth Young masterfully captured the arrogance of adolescence and balanced that with a naive heart wanting to be helpful. Billy is one of the most multi dimensional characters I've read in a while. MY BEAUTIFUL FAILURE is Young's most nuanced novel to date. I can't wait to see what she writes next.
The only criticism is that Young dropped the ball on Bill Sr's bipolar behavior, the chance to delve deeper into his symptoms, and to show that success, creativity and mental need not be mutually exclusive.
While MY BEAUTIFUL FAILURE is a novel with a YA narrator, I encourage adults and teens interested in mental to pick up this book. Adults may just see themselves in Billy's adolescent omnipotence. I know I did.
This book would be one of the poster children for the kind of books I love seeing in realistic fiction: no supernatural elements are necessary to turn this seemingly average story into something extraordinary. The concept is very gripping, and the story maintains suspense and unease with the topics of mental illness and suicide. Told in the first person, Billy was an excellent narrator, and all the characters were given fleshing out in their time on the page.
The big topics touched in this book were done with care and style. I love how the author took everyone’s (or mine…my friend volunteers at a suicide hotline) fantasies about what a suicide hotline is like (helping coax people off the ledge nightly) and gave them to Billy. It made him seem like just another kid, and he along with the reader discovers that it’s far from glamorous nor are you always getting suicide calls. The book showed a lot of average cases of people who just wanted to talk, and I thought it was a subtle look into the everyday of lonely people. But, then, of course, the book does eventually get to suicide. Billy’s chapters, never more than a few pages, sometimes just contain haunting vignettes of the winter when his father was depressed, and they hold on tightest throughout the book. As a reader, I truly did fear for Billy’s father’s relapse after Billy’s research and observation. And, when that suicide call finally comes through, the author did a nice job of it coming out as a surprise, despite the book’s premise.
Billy himself is one of favorite male narrators: he’s caring, responsible (well, not in school, but he’s a teenager), surrounded by interesting friends, and very insightful for his age. At times, his descriptions were amusing, at others haunting. I love the way the book uses flashback and the phone calls not being in quotes, but italics to give mood to the book, and therefore Billy’s narration. His reactions were natural, and by the end, the reader could truly imagine Billy being real with his dislikes, likes, opinions, and struggles. Some may even wish there was a Billy in their lives. Even his at-times irrational crush on Jenney was played off in a realistic and natural way. Even so, he isn’t indestructible, and his character is allowed to make mistakes, giving his character humanity and his story a satisfying closing.
In conclusion, if you want to read about deep topics like suicide and depression while not having to sift through the angst of the depressed narrator, enjoy a male protagonist, like just a bit of quirk, and are looking for a quick read, I’d highly recommend My Beautiful Failure.
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by Janet Ruth Young
Antheneum Books for Young Readers
After his father's sickness, Billy longs to help others.Read more