- Age Range: 12 and up
- Grade Level: 7 - 9
- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books; Reprint edition (August 29, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0545474337
- ISBN-13: 978-0545474337
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 47 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Memory of Light Paperback – August 29, 2017
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It starts off AFTER a young girl tries to take her own life which important bc it doesn’t glorify suicide or focus one’s attention & instinct to blame. When things go wrong in our lives, we seek to understand & place blame somewhere. The reality is that most cases of suicide are NOT done bc of one single thing - it’s all those single hurts that add up until one can no longer hold on.
While considered s YA book, it does an excellent job of explaining how a suicidal mind thinks. And those thoughts & feelings are not just the woes of teenagers; but rather shed light on the feelings of anyone who has seriously considered suicide.
Given that suicide is the #1 killer of teens, this book is important for PARENTS to read as well. It gives the warning signs of a depressed teen (much of which can translate to an adult.) Teens and other suicidal people often talk about committing suicide, but not all do.
Instead there may be s tendency to withdraw from the world. Vicki (main character) talks about the blissful silence she felt/heard before and after she takes the pills from her stepmother. (Keep such items locked away as teens are holding “M&M” parties where they bring in all the prescription meds found in their homes, mix them up in a bowl and, not even knowing what they are for, will take a handful!)
This book is also about accepting ones feelings, allowing space in our hearts to grieve the loss of someone, be it a parent or friend.
Our culture is so disconnected from death bc it has become “sanitized” by bright white hospitals and then the timeline on how long you’re allowed to grieve is on. Are you done grieving yet? Are you done yet? Done yet? Reality is that when someone loses a loved one, as Vickie lost her mother, one never really STOPS grieving. Instead we learn to live with it and incorporate it into our own personal stories.
Suicide is a difficult thing to comprehend if you’ve never felt the hopelessness and loneliness that a suicidal person can feel. Often times, after weeks or months of displaying depressive feelings, they suddenly cheer up. That, on the outside looks like a good thing. But, it may also happen bc the suicidal person has a workable plan in place and the heavy, wet blanket that has been holding him/her down has been lifted as they accept dying as their way out.
The ONLY reason I couldn’t give this book 5 stars is because Vickie’s “ recovery” takes place over the course of 3 weeks and she has a family supporting her to the best of their ability. Chronic clinical depression with a suicide attempt is not “fixed” in the span of 3 weeks and I wish Stork had somehow ended the story on a more reality-based scenario.
Finally, if someone you know is talking about suicide, do NOT fall into the mistaken belief that s/he won’t do it. Do NOT leave that person alone and at the very least, take all medication and guns from the residence. Encourage them to talk about WHY they feel that way and ask how you can best be of service to him/her. LISTEN to what they have to say. Don’t try to cheer them up with worn out cliches or try to solve the problem right this second. Ask them to commit in writing that they will not hurt themselves in the next 24 hours. Repeat as needed until professional help becomes available.
I believe that everyone could benefit by reading this book. It gives readers a lens through which they can experience the world of someone who is suicidally depressed. This is likely the single, most important book you will ever read.
I don't have direct experience with clinical teenage depression-- although I did watch a friend go through it in high school. Francisco Stork writes with great insight and sensitivity-- and here he takes on the touchy subject of a variety of mental illnesses with trademark sensitivity.
But more than just presenting a realistic spectrum of the way bipolar, schizophrenia, and depression may shape teens, Stork gives us a bonus spectrum: a variety of Latino characters of various economic and immigration status backgrounds.
Vicky Cruz is the third generation-American, rich daughter of an ambitious businessman, and she just tried to commit suicide. She finds herself in an emergency hospital bed attended by Dr. Desai (a female psychiatrist of East Indian background) and forced into group therapy every day.
Only the members of the group become a source of support and acceptance to each other, and ultimately Vicky finds reasons to live intricately bound up with her relationship to the others in the group.
We meet the group, they seem fine, they go to a ranch to explore their therapy a bit more-- and things explode. I really liked how Stork presented the characters in their more "normal" phases at first and then pulls the rug out from under you by showing how their illness flaring up can really mess up their relationships and lives. Mona, the bipolar, almost dies because she stops taking medication and becomes obsessed with her sister. Gabriel, presented more or less as the normal, wise one from the beginning, descends into a particular kind of madness that it would be hard to follow him into as a caring friend.
Vicky manages it. She also manages to learn to stand up to her family's expectations and deal with the loss of her mother.
So I know this is a novel. I know there has to be some kind of hope woven through the story. But I kept having to suspend disbelief about the nuggest of wisdom each character had, as well as the overall path towards wellness Vicky took (she didn't even have to take medication). Not that it couldn't happen this way in real life, but just that I wondered if there was some way to convey through the story the daily grind, the many moments of wrestling with illness that I saw in my high school friend in Vicky's story.
Regardless, this is an important book for teens. It does a superb job of unpacking stereotypes about mental illness and latino culture.