Tuesday, August 03, 2010

By the time you read this, I'll be dead by Julie Anne Peters

Suicide is never a happy topic and this book proved rather depressing. I personally did not like this novel. With such a serious topic, I felt like there needed to be powerful message and I didn't find one. The ambiguous ending left me feeling uncertain about the whole story.

Daelyn is suicidal. For years she's been bullied for her weight and, while other suicide attempts have failed, this time she'll succeed. She's discovered a website for people to talk about suicide without being discouraged from completing the task. The website offers different chat forums for people to tell their story, as well as information on ways to commit suicide. Daelyn has 23 days to complete the task and during those days, as she "purges" her pain on the website, she also meets Santana, a neighboring boy who has a keen interest in her. She, though, has disconnected with the world, not feeling anything, and struggles when she does have those moments of connection with others.

My first complaint about this book is the actual discussion of ways to commit suicide. I personally felt that breaking down suicide methods by effectiveness, time, availability, and pain is in poor taste, especially when it gives notes on ways to be most successful. I don't want to say that this book encouraged suicide, but I as I read, I didn't see any alternatives offered. To me it almost felt like if you're bullied, things are never going to get better and the only solution is suicide. I think that's part of the reason I don't like the ambiguous ending. Maybe if it was clear that she didn't kill herself, then the book wouldn't feel so "pro-death" but that's not how I'm left feeling. I can see why the author might not have wanted a black and white ending because for her to live is too "happily ever after" but to flat out say she did the deed, is insensitive. With a topic like suicide, there is a thin line but to not choose a side even with subtle hints leaves me as the reader unsettled. True this topic is completely unsettling, but I personally needed some sort of comfort and closure for Daelyn

In terms of the book creating a suicidal character, I think the author did a great job. Since Daelyn isn't speaking in the novel, there's a lot of reflection to what she'd like to say and how she'd feeling and the disconnect is definitely there. As she explores certain incidents on the chat forum, you can really feel her pain. Santana is a good contrasting character because as much as Daelyn wants to die, he wants to live. Another character, Emily - the new fat girl in school - also proves a good contrast for Daelyn.

I don't like suicide. I don't understand it and while this book did a great job getting into the mind of a suicidal character, I don't like how it handled the actual topic of suicide. Maybe I'm just too sensitive and oblivious to the clear clues for the ending but this book left me thoroughly unsettled.

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