Call me cynical, but when I read a book about hard-hitting themes like bullying and suicide, I don't necessarily want "happily ever after." While this book does a decent job tackling these two serious topics, I felt the rosy ending for these characters didn't jive with reality.
This novel is told through the eyes of two boys - chapters alternating between Victor and William "Bull". Victor is a victim of bullying done by Bull. The bullying has gone on since kindergarten and hasn't improved. At the same time, he's reminded constantly that his parents never wanted him and is repeatedly belittled by their selfishness and egos. While Bull is a bully at school, he is a victim at home to his grandfather's fists and his mother's neglect. Each boy is miserable and desperate for a way out. Victor tries suicide and Bull tries to defend himself from his grandfather with a gun but ends with getting himself shot. Now both boys are roommates in a psych ward, involuntarily committed for five days after "suicide" attempts. Through the people that they meet, the boys discover who they truly are and what's worth living for.
I felt as if this book did a great job of building these characters who you feel sorry for. You completely sympathize with Victor and his horrible parents and the bullying and how his only companion in the world is a dog knocking on death's door. You even feel bad for Bull, despite the fact that he's a bully. All of that works for the story. Then they're committed for five days and after four days they're magically cured? A magic cure is bad enough, but then they both fall in love in this psych ward in four days? What are the odds? At that point the book starts to lose its realism for me. First off, I find a cure in four days a bit much, especially for Victor. Bull was never suicidal to begin with, so I can believe it for him, but Victor had so much going against him - his parents went to Europe and didn't even come back when he tried to commit suicide. All it took, though, was for him to share his feelings and have a girl say he's worth living and now every thing's peachy keen? Again, maybe I'm just cynical, but it's all too picture book happy for me. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that things worked out in the end, but it makes it seem too easy. While I don't have any experience with suicide, I've been given the impression that this is a serious struggle for a lot of people. Not everyone has a long-lost relative ready to step in a fight for them. Not everyone is going to meet a girl and want to turn it all around in a day or two. This book would have been more powerful if it was a little bit more realistic in terms of recovery.
Some people like fairy tale endings, but some topics don't lend themselves to that. While I can see this book as inspiration for people not to commit suicide and to stand up for bullies, I felt like it should be more sympathetic to the true struggles that people face in these situations.