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Suicide Notes Hardcover – October 14, 2008
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From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up—Jeff, the irreverent, sarcastic, and utterly terrified 15-year-old narrator, wakes up on New Year's Day in a psych ward with bandages around his wrists. He copes with his therapy by using extreme denial and avoidance, attempting to one-up his therapist, Dr. Katzrupus, or Cat Poop, with flippant, deflective wordplay and outrageous stories of faux Sugar Plum Fairy fantasies. Jeff spends the rest of his time with the other teens, including suicidal Sadie the sociopath and the gay teen in jock's clothing, Rankin. While Sadie encourages Jeff's resentment toward the program, it is Rankin's actions that force Jeff to come to terms with his suicide attempt and his own sexuality. This is a story of warped self-perception, of the lies that people tell themselves so they never have to face the truth. Ford is most successful in his withholding of Jeff's secret, a disclosure not made until the last third of the book. While the book could be named Gay Boy, Interrupted due to many similarities to Susanna Kaysen's characters and depictions of the mental-health community, Jeff's wit and self-discovery are refreshing, poignant, and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny. Readers will relate to Jeff as a teen bumbling through horrible embarrassment and the shame that follows, and they will be inspired by his eventual integrity and grace.—Kat Redniss, Brownell Library, Essex Junction, VT
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After Jeff, 15, wakes up in a psychiatric ward, he won’t talk about why he slit his wrists. He lies to the therapist (whom he names “Cat Poop”) and refuses to relate to the other teens in group therapy. He feels that he is not nutty like them, his parents are fine, nothing is bothering him, and he is “normal”; he just had one bad day. The therapy talk sometimes gets to be too much, but there is rising tension in Jeff's fast, irreverent, frank, first-person narrative: what is he holding back? He bonds with another patient, Sadie, and tells her about his best friend, Allie, and about Allie’s cute boyfriend. When Jeff sees a jock masturbating in the shower, he feels attraction that is returned, and the two teens have sex. Long before Jeff confronts the truth, readers will realize that he is gay, and his denial is part of the humor and sadness many readers will recognize. Grades 10-12. --Hazel Rochman
Top customer reviews
As far as the issue of suicide goes, it's a very complex issue. A lot of people think about it in terms of black and white, but I think it's the very definition of gray. There are those who try to commit suicide out of momentary despair (like Jeff, the main character in the book), but there are also those who have severe depression, and then there are those that choose to end their lives for rational reasons. People who are terminally ill, people who feel that they've lived a good life and are ready to die, and then there are those who are just disillusioned with life (nothing brings any joy to them no matter how hard they try, so why stick around?).
This novel did not deal with the complex issue of suicide in our society, but instead it focused on one teen's personal experience. Jeff's experience is not a universal example of why people try to kill themselves, but within the context of the novel, I think that's a good thing. While to some of us the reason for why he attempted suicide might seem a bit lukewarm, it is a fact that it does happen, especially among the teen population.
Overall, I liked this novel. It was the story of one teen, and the whole book was from his point-of-view. Having said that, I also liked learning about some of the other characters that were in the psych ward with Jeff. I found Sadie to be an especially interesting character, and I wonder what kind of novel would this be if she had been the main character.
All in all, a pretty good read. Recommended.
Michael Thomas Ford manages to create a well-written teen self-help book in a story format that will entertain his readers, through characters and feelings with whom they can identify. Family dynamics are shown in a realistic and unapologetic style, and the book is careful not to get heavy-handed or preachy. Excellent read for young people dealing with family, social or coming-out issues. Five blue pills out of five.
But what's marvelous about SUICIDE NOTES is the universality of Jeff's feelings. More kids than not don't attempt suicide, suffering silently instead, worrying about disappointing parents, failing to measure up, being abandoned by friends, and never fitting in. I worried about all those things. SUICIDE NOTES was a look back, suggesting how far I've come, and a reminder that, when doubts still occur, they can be viewed as invitations to once again look inside and discover a bit more.
Craig Bennett Hallenstein is author of THE DOLPHIN, a psychological thriller set in New Orleans.