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Book Review: The Gatekeepers by Jen Lancaster

Let me begin by saying this: It has been a long time since I have been so very conflicted about a book. If you have read this book, I really would like to discuss it with you.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BOOK DEALS WITH SOME VERY TRIGGERING ISSUES INCLUDING SUICIDE AND EATING DISORDERS. ALSO, I CAN’T DISCUSS THIS BOOK FULLY WITHOUT INCLUDING HUGE SPOILERS.

But first, let me share with you the Publisher’s Book Description:

thegatekeepersAnyone passing through North Shore, IL, would think this was the most picture-perfect place ever, with all the lakefront mansions and manicured hedges and iron gates. No one talks about the fact that the brilliant, talented kids in this town have a terrible history of throwing themselves in front of commuter trains, and that there’s rampant opioid abuse that often leads to heroin usage.

Meet Simone, the bohemian transfer student from London, who is thrust into the strange new reality of the American high school; Mallory, the hyper-competitive queen bee; and Stephen, the first generation genius who struggles with crippling self-doubt. Each one is shocked when lovable football player Braden takes his own life and the tragedy becomes a suicide cluster. With so many students facing their own demons, can they find a way to save each other—as well as themselves?

Inspired by the true events that happened in the author’s home town.

Karen’s Thoughts

In a lot of the discussion surrounding this book, the author and publisher acknowledge the recent controversy surrounding Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and suggest that this is a safer alternative, but I am not sure that I agree with that assessment. I think that within the course of this book the author makes a lot of important points, but as someone who has depression/anxiety and sometimes suicidal ideation, I don’t know that this read was any safer or less triggering. In fact, my teenage daughter has recently struggled with a friend that has suicidal ideation and I would not want her to read this book.

For one, I find the concept of The Gatekeepers as a whole very concerning. The premise is based on the true story of a police officer who would stroll the Golden Gate bridge and look for people whom he believed might be considering jumping. By just walking up and engaging them in conversation, it is believed that he helped prevent a lot of suicides, which is of course an amazing and encouraging story. So at the end of this book, the teens who have just lost several friends to suicide decide that they are going to be gatekeepers, that they will work to be more engaged and notice the signs and try and stop more of their classmates from committing suicide. Although I found the goal laudable, I felt that it put a lot of responsibility for others on these teens, teens who are already struggling with loss and guilt. I just spent the last few weeks telling my teen that she could be present for her friend who was struggling with depression but that it wasn’t her fault and she couldn’t fix him, nor was it reasonable for anyone to expect her to do so. My teen did everything right, she contacted an adult (me), we called the police because we didn’t know how to get a hold of his parents, but this was only after he had made outright statements that were clearly suicidal in intent. Many of the teens in this book didn’t have that luxury as presented in the text of the story and I feel strongly that the overall message of this book could lead to a lot of guilt for teens. And let’s keep in mind we are talking about teens, not an adult police officer who is trained to deal with a wide variety of intense situations.

Although I want to make sure that I point out that when a suicide happened and the survivors expressed guilt, most of their parents (there was one truly awful parent here) did the work of re-assuring their teen that they couldn’t have known and they aren’t responsible. But then there are lots of little points in the text, including the overall creation of the Gatekeepers, which can be seen as contradicting this message. And it’s important to point out that this is based on a true story. I liked the idea of the creation of a community center, of training to learn the signs of suicide, of being more present and a better friend, just not the implicit message that somehow these teens could prevent suicide, because that’s not always how mental health works. Although this book doesn’t do a great job of talking about mental health, but more on that in a moment.

And as I mentioned before, some of the adults in the book say and do really important things surrounding the discussion of suicide. For example, when a new student rushes to take pictures of the first suicide while she is there and write a story for the school newspaper, that story is squashed. Eventually an administrator tells her that the reason the story was not published is because of the contagion effect of teenage suicide and how when one teen commits suicide, several others will often follow and they want to not glamorize or draw attention to the suicides. This was a good and important conversation.

Another concern I had was the framing of suicide in this novel. It is emphasized again and again that these suicides are occurring because of the high academic standards and stress put on these students, which can be a cause for suicide. However, The Gatekeepers does a really poor job, I feel, of addressing mental health issues overall. One teen says to a friend at one point that he is concerned that he may be bipolar, but that topic isn’t really fully addressed. Another teen has a full blown eating disorder, and that topic isn’t really dealt with in a way that I am comfortable with either (more on that in a minute). And finally, there is some very real drug use and addiction in this book, it even talks about the current Opioid crisis, but then there seems to be almost no legal consequences to a teen who is known to be a distributor. In fact, he is just gives up selling after one of the suicides and later becomes a hero figure as he is harmed in a car crash by one of the very teens he was previously selling to. Stress is talked about a lot, but mental health issues less so, and I think it is irresponsible to talk about suicide without talking about mental health.

One character in particular really stood out as problematic, Mallory. Mallory obviously suffers from body dysphoria and an eating disorder. Every student seems to be aware of this and alludes to it. At one point Mallory even says to an adult in authority something about why would they trust her, she’s afraid of a banana. The eating disorder always hangs there, alluded to, but it’s never really fully addressed. In fact, at one point Mallory, who does peer to peer counseling, is counseling another student who is not happy with her body and that scene is really difficult to read. As someone who spent most of my teen years and early 20s dealing with anorexia and has heard teens talk about their body issues, I would in no way feel comfortable giving them this book because of how horribly the issues of Mallory are addressed.

I will also say that this book suffers from some really standard stereotypes. There is the bohemian transfer student from England, the geeks, the super chill non-conformist dude who makes movies and smokes pot, the various athletes, and the Asian American student with a Tiger mom who puts so much pressure on him that he ends up being one of the teens to die by suicide. The characters are given a bit more depth then a standard stereotype, but it seemed like a lazy starting point for character development.

So while I really liked and valued some of what this book had to say about suicide and thought that it had profound moments, overall I can’t in good faith recommend this book. Not as someone who has struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. Not as someone who has wrestled with an eating disorder her entire life. And not as someone who has worked with teens who have done the same. I feel like I understood what the author was trying to achieve with this book, but that she did not successfully achieve it. Mental health issues are really hard to do well in YA fiction, in part because I think they can have such an important impact, and I don’t feel that this book achieves what it set out to achieve.

Sunday Reflections: When You’re a Teen and a Friend Threatens Suicide

Trigger Warning: Suicide, Suicidal Ideation

tltbutton5

We spent all of 2016 talking about teens and mental health and it occurs to me, we never talked about what happens when you are a teenager and your friend threatens to commit suicide. This point became painfully clear to me this past Friday night when this very event happened to The Teen.

MHYALitlogoofficfial

The #MHYALit Discussion Hub – Mental Health in Young Adult Literature

At about 3 a.m. I received a text from The Teen – I’m in another state at the moment – where she said, “Mommy, I need you. I don’t know what to do.” A friend of her was texting her that they were going to commit suicide because the world would be better off without them. I jumped up immediately and called my daughter because I understood that this was an emergency, for both her and her friend. So I called and my daughter could barely talk through the crying. She really didn’t know much about this person except for their name and phone number, they just met this year at school and they are friends in the way that many teens are in 2017. They hang out at school and text, but they don’t they’ve never been to each other’s homes and they don’t really know much about each other.

So, not knowing how to get a hold of the parents, I did the only thing I could think to do and I called the local police and reported that a teenager was considering suicide and asked them to make sure this person was okay. This bit was tricky because we couldn’t answer any of their questions. A name and number is all we could provide.

I will be honest and tell you that I was motivated not only for concern for this teen and his well being, but for my own. I knew and understood that if we did nothing and it turned out that this teen did end up harmed in some way, my daughter would never be okay. I have mentioned here before that almost two years ago my high school best friend died by suicide and it will never not haunt me. Unlike my daughter I had no idea, but I still wrestle with guilt and wondering what signs I missed. I want more than anything to spare her this burden. So I did the only thing I could think to do.

My daughter has grown up in a home where we talk about mental health issues and she knows that they are real and serious, but not shameful. I myself struggle with depression and anxiety issues. I myself have had some periods of suicidal ideation. She is aware of all of this. So when this friend reached out to her, she understood what was happening, she just didn’t know what to do. And to be honest, I didn’t either. When I am in my darkest places, I tend to shut down and turn inward. But I recognized that this teen was issuing a cry for help, we just didn’t know how, exactly, to help them. And I reminded her again and again that she, a mere teenager herself, was not equipped to help him.

Afterwards, we talked a lot about what it means to be a friend to someone struggling with a mental health issues. We talked about responsibility and saving, and how in the end, we are not and can not be responsible for another person’s mental health and happiness. It’s a harsh truth that I have come to understand for myself, I and I alone am responsible for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t cherish the support of others (because I genuinely do) and that we shouldn’t give it to others when we can (because we can and should), but at the end of the day no one else can save or heal me. I needed her to understand that although she can and should be a good friend to this person, that if something ever does happen to them it is not her fault.

suicideprevention

So here’s the take away of what I told her and think we should tell all teens regarding a friend who expresses suicidal ideation. Please keep in mind, I am not a legal or medical professional and this is what I did and some research (links at the bottoms) indicate that I did a pretty decent job of handling the situation.

1. Tell an adult immediately. Even if you promised not to tell, tell someone.

2. Always, if it is an emergency, call 911 immediately. If you have reason to suspect someone has just done something that is life threatening, call 911.

3. The adult should contact the parent of the individual if they know how. Otherwise, they should contact the police in the area where the teen expressing suicidal ideation resides. Let them know that you have a child who has been in contact with someone who has expressed that they may commit suicide and ask that they do a safety check.

4. Have as much information as you know ready about the individual when you contact the police. Name, number, address, parents, etc.

5. Afterwards, remind the teen that telling an adult was the right thing to do. Help them understand that telling an adult was the right thing even if it has negative consequences (for example, their friend may get in trouble with their parents). It is possible that this person will be upset and angry, it may even end the friendship. Do not feel guilty. You are doing what you can to help someone who has just expressed that their life is in jeopardy, that is never wrong.

6. Let your teen know that if the friendship does continue moving forward, it’s okay to set boundaries for yourself. For example, while being an engaged and supportive friend is encouraged, they are not allowed to put you in this position again or use guilt against you. Being in a friendship with a person who struggles with depression and anxiety is hard, and I can look at a lot of my past relationships and see ways in which I have harmed my past friends – it’s part of the illness that can take a while to figure out and learn to better navigate – but the person on the other side of the friendship 100% gets to have their own personal boundaries to maintain their own emotional health and well being. Always, always talk with teens about healthy relationships and personal boundaries.

More Resources:

Suicide Prevention: How to Help Someone who is Suicidal

My Friend Is Talking About Suicide. What Should I Do? – KidsHealth

Helping a Friend Who is Talking About Suicide | Psychology Today

Resources: #SVYALit and #MHYALit – Teens and Suicide, Teens and Sexual Violence Brochures

Due in part to the discussions I have been having surrounding the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, I made an informational brochure on the topics of suicide and sexual violence for the teens at my library. I am posting them here for you and you can use them if you would like. A few notes though.

One, these contain titles that I currently have in my library on the subjects. I have been working on my next book order and I am working to make sure to include highly recommended titles and titles that feature diverse MC or are Own Voices on these subjects in my next book order.

Two, I think you can easily make corrections or additions by downloading book covers you have in your collection and overlaying them in a graphics program if you wish.

Three, we checked multiple times because I’m me for typos, so I hope there aren’t any.

I am also working on one to address the current drug/opioid crisis that we are witnessing nationwide and in the county that I serve, but that one is taking a little more time. I could quickly pull information off of TLT to make these two given some of our past projects, but I am just mow starting to really dive into the facts and figures of the opioid crisis.

svyalitbrochurepage1

real talk sexual violence brochure page 2

real talk sucide brochure page 1

real talk suicide brochure page 2

 

Sunday Reflections: How the 2016 Election is Affecting Teens, Week 3 (A tweet story by Mary Hinson)

On Sundays, I have the privilege of hosting a weekly event that we call Spaghetti Sunday (inspired by author Christa Desir). We open our home to a wide group of people, eat food (not always spaghetti), do puzzles, play games, and just hang out. My beloved Mary Hinson (@knoxdiver on Twitter, YA assistant at Irving Public Library) is one of my treasured guests. And we usually have anywhere from 2 to 10 teens come.

The Bestie reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas to The Teen at Spaghetti Sunday

The Bestie reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas to The Teen at Spaghetti Sunday

It then became a more involved storytie

It then became a more involved storytime

Sometimes it gets wild

Sometimes it gets wild

No matter how loud it gets or how much chaos there is, these 2 teens always read through it

No matter how loud it gets or how much chaos there is, these 2 teens always read through it

Did I mention we eat a lot?

Did I mention we eat a lot?

Last night, Mary had a conversation with one of the teens which she tweeted about. She gave me permission to Storify those tweets and share them with you here. So in my ongoing quest to show you how the results are affecting teens, here's week three presented by Mary Hinson.

 



  1. Tonight I got to hang out 1 on1 with one of my fave teens. She told me about what's going on at school & then she broke down because she is


  2. Scared about what the election of the "screaming yam" (as she calls him) will mean for her marginalized friends. She told me how upsetting


  3. It is when kids at school make jokes about suicide. How offensive it is when boys make rape "jokes" or ask Hispanic classmates when they're


  4. Going to be kicked out of the country. I asked her if she felt safe. She said she feels okay for herself but she is terrified for others.


  5. Tonight I held this beautiful, kind, smart, sweet, pure-hearted child in my arms & together we cried about our future, our country's future.


  6. And I was so scred because I have become that non-parent adult I was told as a kid I could go to for help but I couldn't DO anything.


  7. I held this girl & rubbed her back & gave her napkins to blow her nose & told her how proud I am of her, how much I love her. I told her


  8. I'm here for her. But I'm heartbroken for this child who is witnessing the world's ugliness in ways no child ever should. And I'm angry that


  9. We, collectively, as a society, have failed these kids. It can't continue. Something has to change. WE have to change. LISTEN to those who


  10. Are speaking out--esp marginalized voices. SEEK the truth. EDUCATE yourself. STAND UP for those who need a shield & SPEAK OUT against hate.


  11. We're so lucky in this YA book community to have some really amazing people to turn to for advice & action items. LISTEN. TO. THEM.


  12. If you're not okay with everything happening right now, DO SOMETHING. Call your reps & talk. Leave messages. Send letters.


  13. Elected officials are supposed to represent us. Let them hear your voice. Attend community meetings. Get involved. Don't know what to say?


  14. You don't have to be a poli-sci major or a govt intern or whatever to talk with your reps. Call & let them know what matters to you.


  15. Tonight made me feel so emotionally raw. I didn't have the answers for this teen. But I know I want to fight for her. I want to fight for


  16. The teens & kids at my library. In my state. In our country. In the world. we need to bleed & fight for these kids. Adults, we've kind of


  17. Fucked everything up for them. We need to make it right for them & someday, they're gonna blow us all away.

Thank you Mary for being there for this teen last night. I adore you, even if you do dip your potato chips in ketchup.

spaghettisunday8

More on the Aftermath of the 2016 Election and Teens

Spending the Day After the 2016 Election with Teenagers

Now What? On Being a Librarian and a Book Lover After the 2016 Election

Things I Never Learned in Library School: On Being a Teen Librarian 2 Weeks After the 2016 Election

Sunday Reflections: My Teens Will be Voting in the Next Presidential Election

#MHYALit: For My Suicidal Friends, On the Election of Donald Trump, a guest post by Olivia James

MHYALitlogoofficfialTrigger warning for suicide, real talk about racism, sexism, and mental illness.

This post originally was posted on November 11, 2016 on We Got So Far To Go

I’m scared about the election of Donald Trump for many, many reasons, but one of the most pressing is the fact that it has retraumatized a number of already vulnerable people. I have seen reports (although currently unsubstantiated) of up to 8 trans youth who committed suicide on election night alone. While I do not have hard evidence of these suicides, I find it easy to believe that number or a higher number based on the number of personal friends I have who have quietly told me or others that they are in a place where they don’t feel safe. My office had to open extra space for individuals who were afraid to be alone. People are feeling hopeless and helpless, and when you apply those feelings to populations with histories of trauma, mental illness, disability, harassment, and discrimination, you end up with people who don’t see the point in living. That is dangerous.

 

I’ve lived most of my life with some level of suicidal ideation. I like to think I have a degree in hopelessness, since I spent my entire time in undergrad wanting to die. I know this isn’t quite the same, but I’d like to talk a little bit about how I get through. Maybe it will help you. I hope it does. If any of the reasons in here feels like pressure or doesn’t work for you, skip it. Take care of yourself. Please.

 

  1. First and foremost, I want you all to know that your fears are valid. Anyone who tells you that you’re overreacting or that we can get through this and we’ll all be ok can suck an egg. We don’t know what will happen in the next four years. Whatever is happening politically, we have already seen acts of harassment, violence, and hatred around our country in the last couple of days. If you have feelings of fear, grief, and hopelessness, don’t for a minute think that you’re “crazy” or even that you’re alone. Pay attention to those feelings. Take care of those feelings. Step one is to notice that you are feeling things and let yourself feel the feelings.

 

  1. That being said, it’s easy to let feelings of hopelessness and depression overwhelm you. It’s easy to think that there is no reason to go on living, because there are so many things to be afraid of and so many things that can hurt you or the people you love. But despite the Bigness of what we face and your feelings, there may be some things that you have forgotten. I know, I know, you don’t want to be reminded that good things exist. Of course they do. But the bad things are outweighing the good right now, aren’t they? Well, maybe. But it doesn’t matter how many bad things there are, it doesn’t change the nature of the good things. No matter how awful things get, my cats will still be Very Fuzzy. That sensation will still be pleasurable to me. There is nothing in the world that can change that. Try to remember a few of the things that don’t change because of the bad things, whether that’s your significant other, a pet, your favorite game, a good book, your preferred form of exercise, or what. You may find it harder to enjoy things right now, but keep in mind that what has changed is YOU not the activity. Remember that there are good things in the world too. The bad things still exist and they’re still bad. But they’re not IT. They’re not the whole story. You are actively lying to yourself when you say that nothing is good. Hold yourself to a higher standard, and do not let Donald Trump win by taking away the joy of Pokemon Go or Dungeons and Dragons or Moscato.

 

  1. I’ve seen quite a few people say that the things they used to care about don’t matter anymore. They’re too trite. Why should we care? Here is why. I believe that just being alive is not a good. Some of you may. But I personally think that the reason life is a good is because of all the things that make a person smile or laugh or have any amount of joy or good feeling. So it really does not matter how trite or small a good thing is. It is literally the reason for life if it makes you smile. I have given up on feeling guilty over my pleasures or worrying about laughing in inappropriate situations or missing the big picture. We are all fighting on the big picture front. We need to focus more on the small front in this moment. It is ok for your joys to be trite. They are still joy. Sometimes I laugh at butts. I don’t care how immature and pointless it is. It brings me joy. So butts are important. Whatever you care about? It is important because you care about. Please do not stop caring.

 

  1. Ok, this is pretty much here because of Number 3. I find that when I’m being incredibly judgmental of the things that should bring me joy, it’s because my brain is focused on the Big Picture and whether this will Change the World. Does it Matter? Honestly, no, whatever is happening in this exact moment probably won’t make a difference in the larger scheme of things. But that probably doesn’t matter if you focus on this exact moment. Life is made up of this exact moments. Most of the time they’re Do you have footie pajamies or a comfy blanket? Do you have a soft cat? Can you eat something delicious? If you have anything like that available, do it and try to only pay attention to that good thing. Turn your focus completely to it. It may just be a moment, but those moments, again, are the reason for living. That’s ok. It’s ok for those small moments to be all of it. If this moment’s only purpose is to give you a brief reprieve from depression, that seems like a pretty amazing purpose to me.

 

  1. Let’s talk for a second about hope. I have spent the last few days talking to as many people as I can. Connections are what keep me alive. What is astounding me is the resilience of the people around me, and the kindness of the people around me. The first impulse of every person I know is to ask if I’m ok, to see how others are, to volunteer their time, money, and resources to help other people. Racism and sexism are alive and real. I cannot deny that. At the same time, even the people who have unintentionally supported the racist and sexist systems are looking around and trying to see what they can do differently. People are acting. People are fervent to ensure the safety and health of their families and friends. There is someone there who can be this hope for you. Start a conversation with someone, anyone, and I will bet you that even if you’re asking about them, they will ask within the first 30 seconds how you are. This is one of the Good things. Not even the KKK can take it away.

 

  1. Your existence is important. If you die, we are losing. I cannot stop using this Audre Lorde quote because it is so perfect, and when I copy pasted it, the formatting was absurdly large. I think I’m going to keep it that way because it’s just that important.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

bamfordListen to Maria Bamford. If you have issues with the current political elite, the best revenge you can exact is to stay alive and thrive. We cannot fight without you.

 

 

 

  1. And finally, remember that people need you. Maybe this is selfish of me, but I cannot handle anyone else dying right now. I need you here. I need to know that you’re ok. And I honestly mean this: anyone, any time, if you are afraid and not ok, email me. I will talk to you. I will listen. Your fears and your feelings are real and valid, and I still believe that you can survive.

 

You all have my deepest love and support. Please, contact someone if you feel unsafe. See your therapist, talk to a close friend, call a hotline. Stay with us. We are stronger with you.

 

Meet Olivia James

11193332_10152762213502601_1744363452546004244_nOlivia is a marketer by day and a writer by basically every other time. If you met her you’d probably think “well there’s a big ol’ nerd” and you’d be right. You can often find her playing Dungeons and Dragons, cuddling with her cats, or ranting at anyone who will listen about social justice. Olivia has a weird obsession with octopuses and Latin, which is why it’s very important to her that it’s octopodes not octopi. In addition to blogging at “We Got So Far To Go” and doing actual work that she gets paid for, Olivia’s current projects are a young adult sci fi novel and her wedding to the coolest nerd partner anyone could ask for.

#MHYALit: Why I Think I Wrote A Book About Suicide, a guest post by Karen Fortunati

Trigger warning: details of suicide

MHYALitlogoofficfial“Hey…I’ve got some bad news,” my brother said. His voice sounded stiff and hesitant over the phone. “It’s about Lee.* She’s dead…She killed herself.”

 

My mind reeled. Wait. What? She was only thirty something. My cousin’s wife had been through some tough times but this? Suicide?  “What happened?” I asked as if her method would somehow provide an explanation I could understand.

 

Again Rick hesitated. “She…uh…carbon monoxide. In her car. In her garage. At her house.”

 

It wasn’t sinking in. This slim, attractive woman with long dark hair and huge, brown eyes. Always with the quick, sweet, shy smile. Always so pleasant when I’d talk with her once or twice a year at family gatherings. Lee. Dead. By her own poison. I couldn’t see it. Couldn’t see this lovely woman alone in her garage, prepping for death. Couldn’t imagine the pain she was in, comprehend the brutal loneliness and finality of her act.

 

The funeral was a surreal horror.  Inside the church, I studied my cousin and his parents  – their walking, grief-stunned zombie-selves. That they were still standing – actually going through the motions of greeting people, hugging, wiping tears was incomprehensible. Especially as I sat on the hard wooden pew, holding my squirming toddler son, his body warm, heart beating inside the solid weight of him.  Especially as my three-year-old daughter gripped her Disney princess books, oblivious, the church lights glinting off her silky dark hair. I kept her close to me. God, I prayed, don’t ever let me be in Lee’s mother’s shoes.

 

This wasn’t my first exposure to suicide. Years earlier, my former boss had killed himself. He was a flamboyant, pompous yet strangely lovable man who I ate lunch with maybe three times a week for almost two years. At the same pizza place eating the exact same meal every time – two slices of plain. He had gorgeous teeth, these white, perfectly shaped Chiclets that I can still see biting into the mozzarella.

 

My boss was a very public person, the head prosecutor, who while I was working for him, had been convicted of some white-collar crimes – tax evasion, fraud – I can’t even remember. What I do remember is that pending sentencing, he was placed on house arrest, forced to wear an ankle bracelet that monitored his location. He had fallen mightily in our small community and couldn’t handle the shame of going to prison. He cut off the bracelet, fled New Jersey and was ultimately located in Nevada. But before the deputies could break down the door to his $20 a night hotel room, he shot himself in the head.

 

I was staggered by his suicide and that gave rise to one of the few regrets I have in my life – that I never reached out to him after his fall from grace. There were rumors flying around then – that the investigation was ongoing and that he was under surveillance. But one day, while I was out of the office with some colleagues, we decided to drive past his house. And my boss was there, standing on his front lawn in the brilliant sunshine, doing something ridiculously innocuous like watering his plants or something. Our car slowed and he started to turn around. I slid lower in the back seat and we kept driving.

 

I’m ashamed of that. So ashamed. I desperately wish I could do it over. Get out of the car and say hello to him. Let him know…I don’t know. Let him know that it was okay. That this would pass and he’d move on, get over this. Would it have made a difference? Probably not. I was nothing to him in the scheme of things. But…maybe it would have. Maybe it would have.

 

Last weekend, I volunteered at my first Out of Darkness walk, an event organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The event had a raw, stark beauty to it – a resilient community founded on despair. It was a day of transparency, an utter bullshit-free zone. One woman told me of the last conversation she had with her aunt about the existence of God. A volunteer spoke of her teen daughter’s continuing suicide ideation. Another told me that her daughter who had committed suicide was named Karen.

 

I worked at the registration table, checking off the list of participants, while across from me, volunteers handed out “honor beads” – beaded necklaces in a rainbow of bright colors that spoke of the exact nature of loss – red for a spouse or partner, purple for relative or friend, white for a child and so on. I looked up at some point and directly in front of me was a couple wearing the white beads. They appeared freshly stunned and haggard and looked around as if they had been dumped on a strange planet. That couple has stayed with me as well as the group of high school girls who crowded the registration table with their face paint and blue hair ribbons and matching tee shirts with a photograph of Abby. It was the photograph that I had a hard time pulling my eyes from – this beautiful blond hair, blue eyed young woman smiling at me. Abby. A bright and funny cheerleader who killed herself her sophomore year of high school.

 

I’ve been asked about the inspiration for The Weight of Zero. I think it comes down to this, two very specific memories  – Lee’s funeral and my failure to get out of the car that day  – combined with my own anxiety as a parent. Over the years as my children have grown, I’ve become very conscious of a divide, of a blockade I will never be able to cross. My kids have independent lives now, just like I do, and parts of them will remain to me like the bottom of the ocean – unseen and unknown. While that’s exactly as it should be, it still scares me. Because it allows for the possibility of my ignorance of their pain. For the possibility of being in the shoes of Lee’s mother or the white-beaded couple. It has to be the reason why I felt most closely bound to my main character’s mother, why her voice felt like my own. This is what created the engine that drove this story: sorrow, regret, fear and most importantly, hope in that if they/my readers enter a dark place, they’ll be able to find their voice to seek help and hold on through it.                    

 

* Names and relationships have been changed.

 

About THE WEIGHT OF ZERO by Karen Fortunati

weight-of-zeroContemporary Young Adult, Delacorte/Penguin Random House

Release Date: October 2016

Seventeen-year-old Catherine Pulaski knows Zero is coming for her. Zero, the devastating depression born of Catherine’s bipolar disease, has almost triumphed once, propelling Catherine to her first suicide attempt. With Zero only temporarily restrained by the latest med du jour, time is running out. In an old ballet shoebox, Catherine stockpiles medications, preparing to take her own life before Zero can inflict its own living death on her again.

But Zero’s return is delayed due to unexpected and meaningful relationships that lessen Catherine’s sense of isolation. These relationships along with the care of a gifted psychiatrist alter Catherine’s perception of her diagnosis as a death sentence. This is a story of loss and grief and hope and how some of the many shapes of love – maternal, romantic and platonic – impact a young woman’s struggle with mental illness.

Recognition:

A Summer/Fall 2016 Indies Introduce Selection

Featured in SEVENTEEN MAGAZINE, September 2016

An Apple Best Books of October Selection

 

About Karen Fortunati

re3669Karen Fortunati is a former attorney who attends graduate school at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and works part-time as a museum educator. She lives in Connecticut with her family and rescue dogs.

ADD ON GOODREADS

Website: www.karenfortunati.com

Twitter: @karenfortunati

Facebook: @AuthorKarenFortunati

 

#MHYALit Book Review: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

girlinpiecesPublisher’s description

Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people do in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.
A deeply moving portrait of a girl in a world that owes her nothing, and has taken so much, and the journey she undergoes to put herself back together. Kathleen Glasgow’s debut is heartbreakingly real and unflinchingly honest. It’s a story you won’t be able to look away from.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Do you like nearly unremittingly bleak stories? Then do I have a book for you! Now don’t jump ahead and assume that I mean that in any kind of damning way. I like bleak. I like real bleak. I like books where I think, good lord, more bad stuff? So keep reading, okay?

 

We meet Charlie as she is just getting settled in a treatment facility. She’s a cutter who has done too thorough of a job and just spent a week in the hospital. At the facility, she’s silent—selective mutism. She’s been through a lot. Prior to landing in the facility, she was homeless for nearly a year. Now in treatment, she’s getting the help she so desperately needs, grateful to be indoors, warm, and fed. But money and/or insurance doesn’t last forever, and way too soon she’s being cut loose, released to her abusive mother. Instead of going home with her mother, she’s handed some money, her birth certificate, and a bus ticket to Arizona. Great parenting. Charlie heads out there alone. Her friend Mikey is there, but Mikey’s tied to a lot of her past. He’s also not around much, so when he leaves on tour with a band, Charlie is truly alone. She gets a job washing dishes at a cafe, where she meets Riley, a sometimes charming junkie ten years her senior who quickly gets into her head, heart, and pants. Riley is horrible for Charlie. She’s trying so hard to move on from her past, but that’s not easy. Every day is a struggle for her to not cut herself. She makes a lot of crappy choices around and because of Riley. There are small good things mixed in among all this bleakness. Charlie finds solace in drawing and is going to have some of her art in a show. She’s making… I wouldn’t say “friends” at work, but she’s interacting with her coworkers and coming out of her shell a little. And when things fall apart in a pretty epic way, Charlie learns she has more support, resources, and hope than she had imagined.

 

Glasgow’s writing is stunning, moving from lush and poetic to choppy and spare. We’re in Charlie’s head a lot and slowly learn about her background—her father’s suicide, her best friend’s near-suicide, her abusive mother, her life on the streets. She isn’t much for talking, even with Riley, who’s far too self-absorbed to really think to ever ask her anything  about herself. Glasgow’s story is gritty and grim and at times almost too much to bear. I admit to taking lots of breaks while reading this one. People bend, break, leave, disappoint, hurt, die, suffer, and harm. In most cases, they also heal, change, recover, and hope in this astoundingly sad, astonishingly poignant debut.

 

For more on Girl in Pieces, see Glasgow’s previous piece for our blog, “This Book Will Save Your Life.”

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781101934715

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Publication date: 08/30/2016

#MHYALit: Nineteen Years of Living, a guest post by Shaun David Hutchinson

Today author Shaun David Hutchinson joins us to share his story about depression, his suicide attempt, and the 19 years that have passed since then. See all of the posts in our Mental Health in Young Adult Literature series here

 

MHYALitlogoofficfialA few years ago, I went to the emergency room with pain in my stomach and back.  In less than a day, I was undergoing surgery to have my gallbladder removed.  After I’d recovered, when co-workers asked or I was trading war stories with people, and my surgery came up, no one ever said to me, “You probably could’ve gotten better if you’d just tried harder to not be in pain,” or “That’s not a real thing; you were just looking for sympathy, weren’t you?”

 

Yet people with mental illnesses hear these sorts of things all the time.  We’re judged and ridiculed and made to feel broken.  Which is why I’m so open about my own struggles with depression and my suicide attempt at 19.  I refuse to feel ashamed about it.  I was sick, I needed help, I got treatment.  I don’t feel ashamed about having my gallbladder removed, why should I feel shame about having depression?

 

But while I often discuss my depression as a teen and my attempted suicide, I don’t often talk about what came after.  Usually the story ends with, “I attempted to kill myself and I survived and I’m lucky and happy to be alive.”  But what does that mean?  We say, “It gets better,” but how?  I know my story is only one story, but I thought telling it, describing my life after my suicide attempt, might help others who are struggling to see what “it gets better” can look like.

 

The first thing about depression is that there’s no cure.  Depression (like many mental illnesses) is something you’ll have for the rest of your life.  But it is manageable.  You can live a full, happy, and healthy life with depression.  It won’t always be easy, but it is possible. 

 

After my suicide attempt, I was in the ICU for about a week, the regular hospital for a few days after that.  Then I was committed to a psychiatric hospital for a week.  At the time, I was content that I hadn’t died, but still severely depressed. I didn’t want to be in the psychiatric hospital, and I told the doctors what they wanted to hear so they’d release me.  Because I’d attempted to OD on Tylenol, I couldn’t be medicated at the time.  I was apparently convincing enough that my doctor let me go.  But I wasn’t “better.” 

 

Over the course of the next couple of years, I stumbled about.  I enrolled in and dropped out of college multiple times.  I spent a lot of time with my best friend, and tried to start dating.  I made a lot of terrible choices, including dating some extremely questionable guys.  But I made some amazing friends too.  I started going out to a club with a group of people, and we spent every Thursday night dancing to 80s goth music at a club in Downtown West Palm.

 

During that time, I began to feel happy again.  Some of my best memories from back then were working in the Sunglass Hut with my friends and dancing badly in the clubs.  But I wasn’t “cured.”  The depression was still hanging out just beyond my vision, waiting to rear its ugly head.

 

I ended up making the poor decision to move to Georgia for a short time because of a guy I’d met and spent one night with.  When I realized my mistake, I moved home and met another guy who turned out to be a cheater and a liar, and I started messing around with drugs.  Ecstasy, acid, pot.  I never did the hard drugs, but the drugs I did take, I took a lot of.  My life was a pretty big mess.  I’d dropped out of college for the fourth time, and was working as a waiter at a TGI Fridays.  Due to my bad choices, my parents and I weren’t talking, I didn’t speak to my brother for a few years, and I’d had a falling out with my best friend because I was an idiot.  Eventually, I moved with the guy I was dating to Rhode Island.

 

For a while I settled into a semi-stable kind of life.  I worked a series of shitty jobs.  I broke up with the guy, and dated a string of new guys.  Some were nice but I broke up with them because I didn’t feel like I deserved to be loved.  Others were terrible for me but I was too dumb to see it.  I’d go to clubs in Providence, full of hope at the start of the evening, and return home a dejected wreck, convinced I was worthless.

 

There were plenty of good times too.  Again, I made some amazing friends.  I fell in love with a guy I often joke is the one who got away (though if I’m being honest, he’s much better off with the man he eventually married).  I took a solo trip to Italy.  I spent Wednesday nights singing karaoke at this cool-but-no-longer-there gay club.  I drove to Boston on the weekends, and ran through the city like I owned it.

 

But I’d never really dealt with my depression.  I’d pushed it into the corner of my mind.  I’d willfully ignored it.  And doing so eventually bit me in the ass.

 

When I was 25, I moved back to Florida.  I had, for the most part, patched things up with my family.  I’d decided to return to college and try to make something of my life.  For over a year, I did well.  I was taking six and seven classes a semester, and getting As in all of them.  I took a job working at Starbucks (mostly because they offered health insurance to part-time workers).  I reconnected with my best friend.  Things were going well, and I felt happy.  Then I met a guy.  Matt #1. 

 

Over the course of the next two years, I became very, very lost.  I fought with my parents again, I hurt my best friend…again.  I dropped out of college with only one semester left.  #1 and I engaged in a self-destructive on-again off-again relationship that refused to allow me to ignore my depression anymore.  I was, for a very short time, homeless.  I would get drunk and pass out on my bedroom floor.  I started cutting myself again (something I hadn’t done since I was hospitalized) and put out lit cigarettes on my hands.  All of which culminated with me being fired from my job at Starbucks right as I was on track to be a store manager.

 

During that time, I began to realize I needed help with my depression.  I sought out psychiatrists who put me on various medications, but I was too self-destructive back then to understand what I needed to do.  When one doctor put me on Effexor, and I started to feel a little better, I kept upping my own dosage because I figured if a little made me feel better, a lot would make me feel great.  But it doesn’t work that way.  Medication provides immense benefits to people with mental illness, so I don’t ever want to discount the good it can do, but I couldn’t see that at the time.

 

Then came a turning point.  #1 and I had broken up for what felt like the hundredth time.  I was drunk, laying on the floor of my apartment, reading a battered copy of one of the Roswell High books to keep the room from spinning.  I woke up the next morning surrounded by broken glass.  I didn’t remember breaking the glass, and though I hadn’t cut myself, I knew I could have.

 

That was the lowest I’d been since I was 19.  I decided it was time for a change.  I isolated myself from my friends—not because they were bad people, but because I needed a fresh space to confront the choices I’d been making.  I moved back home, got a job in an office, and quit smoking.  I made the decision to stop dating.  I’d thought dating shitty, shady guys was the root of my problems, but the real cause was that since the day I got out of the psychiatric hospital when I was 19, I’d been running.  From myself, my problems, and my depression. 

 

I decided to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be, and I needed to do it on my own.  During that time, I became a certified EMT (though I never got a job doing it), went to firefighter school (but decided that, while I loved it, it wasn’t for me), and I went to Europe with my mother and brother (one of the best trips of my life).  I got my own apartment and focused on my job.  I took up writing again and went on to publish my first book.  I spent a lot of time getting to know myself, and I finally understood how to separate my depression from the bad things that happened in my life.  Bad breakups hadn’t caused my depression anymore than they’d caused my hernias or my migraines.  And in learning that distinction, I began to understand how to live with depression. 

 

I started treating my depression like the disease it is.  When the pendulum swung and I felt myself slipping, I took the time I needed to get well again.  When I had a shitty day at work or when something didn’t go my way, I learned to stop treating it as a symptom of my illness.  I learned that I can feel sad or angry when not depressed and sometimes happy when I am.  Because depression isn’t a punishment, it’s a disease and nothing more. 

 

I spent five years alone.  That’s how long it took for me to really and truly understand and love myself.  When I was ready to start dating again, I did so confident in who I was and certain I was worthy.  I met Matt #2 (though always #1 in my heart).  We began dating, moved in together a year later, and this November we’ll celebrate six years as a couple.  I’ve now published five books, with more on the way.  I’ve traveled and made amazing friends and reconnected with old ones.  I just spent the last year working from home and writing full time, and now I’m back at an office job I love.  I have a lot of plans for my future.  I want to travel the world.  I want to keep writing books.  I want to grow old with this weird guy I love. I want to watch my nieces and nephews become adults. I want Marvel to call me and let me write a YA gay Iceman book, and to see Doctor Who cast a woman to play The Doctor. 

 

It’s been 19 years since I was 19 and tried to kill myself.  There were plenty of really crappy times, and equally as many wonderful ones.  Over the next 19 years, I expect more of the same.  Like I said at the beginning:  there’s no cure for depression.  That’s something I keep at the front of my mind.  I will always suffer from it.  There are days when I can feel it coming, and I call out sick from work and take care of myself.  Then there are days when it pounces so fast I don’t even realize it until I’m in the thick of it.  And while it’s been quite a while since I’ve suffered a major depressive episode, I know that it’s not only possible, but likely, I’ll go through one again. But I keep moving on. Because for every night spent crying, there’s a night spent dancing.  For every fallout with family, there’s an awkward holiday dinner to laugh about later.  For every dream that falls through, there’s a dream that becomes reality.  For every Matt #1, there’s a Matt #2. 

 

Probably my favorite line from We Are the Ants comes from Jesse’s mother when Henry asks her whether she’d press the button and save the world.  She tells him she’d press it because, “Jesse believed life wasn’t worth living, and I refuse to prove him right.”  And when depression makes me feel like life isn’t worth living, I keep going because I refuse to prove it right. 

 

So when I talk about suicide and about how I’m happy I didn’t die, this is why.  These last 19 years of failures and successes and crappy nights and beautiful days.  When we say it gets better, we don’t mean it’s better all the time, but that there are better moments worth living for.  Trust me on this one.  I’ve got 19 years of living to back me up.

 

One last thing I want to say:  Suicide isn’t something you can ever take back.  I was lucky.  Luckier than I had a right to be.  After reading The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, I had a teacher email me and ask if I felt it was irresponsible to show two different characters attempting to commit suicide and come through it unscathed.  While I disagreed that they were unscathed, her question made me think.  A lot.  And I want to make it clear that suicide isn’t a temporary solution. It’s final. And there’s nothing glamorous about it.  The lesson isn’t that I survived suicide and you can too.  It’s that suicide should never be the solution.  It’s that life is worth living, and suicide nearly robbed me of that.  So, please, if you’re even remotely considering taking your own life, seek help immediately.  Your life is worth living. 

 

Meet Shaun David Hutchinson

shaunShaun David Hutchinson is the author of numerous books for young adults, including The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, which won the Florida Book Awards’ Gold Medal in the Young Adult category and was named to the ALA’s 2015 Rainbow Book List, the anthology Violent Ends, which received a starred review from VOYA, and We Are the Ants, which received 5 starred reviews and was named a best book of January 2016 by Amazon, Kobo, Publisher’s Weekly, and iBooks.  He lives in South Florida with his partner and adorably chubby dog, and enjoys Doctor Who, comic books, and yelling at the TV.  Visit him at shaundavidhutchinson.com.

#MHYALit: You Won’t Find Girl Interrupted’s Angelina Jolie But At Least You’ll Be Safe! Why Being Hospitalized for Mental Health Issues Isn’t a Bad Thing, a guest post by Ami Allen-Vath

Today author Ami Allen-Vath shares her experiences with suicidal ideation, depression, hospitalization, and more. We continue to be so honored and proud to share these honest, vulnerable posts. Visit the #MHYALit hub to see all of the posts in this series. 

 

MHYALitlogoofficfialWhen I was in eleventh grade, I wrote a letter to my family and best friends. It was a goodbye letter, a letter to let them know why I couldn’t live anymore.

 

I basically told them I was having flashbacks from the sexual abuse I’d experienced as a middle-schooler. I told them I couldn’t handle life. I told them I had an eating disorder, that I was bulimic and couldn’t handle hating myself and my body anymore. But one thing I didn’t mention was my mom and stepdad’s alcoholism. I didn’t talk about the yelling and physical abuse I’d witnessed. The fights that seemed to happen every weekend. I didn’t say that I stopped inviting friends over and did my best to answer the phone first so friends calling wouldn’t hear their sloppy jokes and slurred words. The laughing and partying that went on a few hours before the fighting happened. I didn’t write about this because I was ashamed. I didn’t want anyone to know. I’d already been through a lot, so I felt like I should have my shit together already. Being a teen in a home with alcoholics felt messy and embarrassing. So, I omitted the alcoholic and domestic abuse stuff, even though the stress and secrecy was wearing me down.

 

So, I folded up the letter, took a bunch of pills and cried. And then I was sobbing. I realize now, I wanted to be heard. My crying woke my sister. What I remember from the rest of the night is my stepdad carrying me to an ambulance and soon after, the hazy snippets of the noise and chaos of an emergency room.

 

After being in the hospital a few days, I was admitted to the AIP. Adolescent Inpatient Psychiatry Fifth Floor Locked-Unit. Prior to my hospitalization, my association to a place like that was “crazy house.” I didn’t want to be there at first, but I really didn’t want to be at home. I met doctors, therapists, took different tests and went to groups and individual therapy. I met kids that had similar and different issues. I took a break from life. I really, really needed that. It was a time to focus on me and shut out the outside world. It was a safe haven and I couldn’t be hurt by the bad choices of my family and I couldn’t hurt myself. Most kids stayed for a week or two. I saw a lot of kids come and go but I stayed for a month.

 

When I went home, my problems were still there but I was equipped to handle things better. Life’s past and present issues didn’t want make me want to die anymore.

 

But about ten years later, it happened again. I had a two-year-old and had just left an awful relationship. I was living with my best friend and her new husband and they were wonderful and supportive. I also had an amazing therapist. The work I did with her had set me on a life-changing journey of healing from my past. I was working through a lot of issues I had because of the sexual abuse I’d been a victim of as a kid. I was trying to manage my eating disorder. It was very “one day at a time,” but I was trying.

 

But due to the issues I had with my ex, single motherhood, and trying to figure out how to get back on my own feet, I felt trapped. I felt like the “old Ami” who couldn’t get ahead. I became very delusional and found myself snapping into a different person. I’d write journal entries as the “old me” and slowly felt myself becoming “her.” I had a suicide plan. In a bad snowstorm, I drove my son to his father’s and said I couldn’t take care of him until I found a job and “got it together.”

 

But once again, even though I was telling my therapist a lot of the things I was dealing with, I wasn’t saying the important stuff. The stuff that had me teetering on the edge of the cliff. I didn’t tell her about my suicidal ideations. I didn’t say I’d sort of split into two people.

 

The “sane” side of me called the hospital. I made an appointment at a mental health facility and once there, the lady asked if I was going to hurt myself. I couldn’t talk. She asked if I needed help, if I needed to stay. At first, I didn’t know if I should tell her or not. But after a minute, I wanted to be heard. I cried. And shook my head yes.

 

Once again, I was in a new psych ward. I was with other adults who had problems that were just as heavy to them as mine were to me. The food wasn’t amazing. The rules could be annoying and patronizing, but being there was good. It was needed. I was safe.

 

I was there for a little over a week. I continued getting care and treatment after. I did my best to go to doctor’s appointments, therapist appointments and take the advice they were giving. Eventually, I stopped wanting to hurt myself.

 

And ten years later, which was last year, I got sick again. I’d recently moved with my husband and children to New Jersey from Georgia. Miles and miles away from close friends and family. My husband travels out of the state and country. He’s gone a few days every week. The town I live in is quiet and isolated, especially in the winter. I was now in a state where winters are cold and dark. I started writing more but once I was agented, I didn’t have enough time or space to do it. I didn’t have any family or friends to help out. I felt very alone. The stress was building at a rapid rate and once again, I felt trapped. I’m a pretty introverted person and love alone time but I missed adults. I missed having friends come by during the week. I missed going out to lunch with a coworker every once in a while. I missed going to my sister’s house on Friday or Saturdays, eating dinner together, and talking until late while the kids played.

 

I was seeing a therapist. It’d been great. We worked through a lot of the issues I had with my mom’s alcoholism. I told her about the anxiety and frustrations about not having enough time for myself and my work. I hinted at feeling overwhelmed, but I didn’t tell her the whole truth. That I was constantly thinking about suicide and wishing I could just do it and get it over with. I didn’t tell anyone that once again, I was becoming very comfortable with the idea of death.

 

But then, with much prodding from my best friend, I broke down. I cried. I admitted that it’d gotten so bad that I wasn’t safe. That I was going to hurt myself. I told her she could tell my husband because I didn’t want to. I was too afraid, too ashamed. I felt too much: I am a mom! A wife! I have a book deal and my dream is coming true! I’m supposed to have my crap together. For my family, for me.

 

The next day, my husband drove me to behavioral/mental health hospital. It was my birthday. But, I was safe. I couldn’t hurt myself. I took a break. From the stress and depression that made it hard for me to breathe. It gave me, doctors and therapists time to come up with solutions in a space where I didn’t have to deal with everything else. I learned some new coping skills. And after a week, I went home. But I wasn’t done. I started a wonderful day program. I was there for about two and a half months. Aside from new coping skills and a sort of “survival” plan, I learned a lot of ways to change the irrational thinking that had been a catalyst to my stress and catastrophizing.

 

And finally, I learned that I NEED TO TALK. I need to be honest about how I’m feeling. I shouldn’t wait until my toes are slightly over the cliff’s edge to finally ask for help. I also learned the true value of hospitalization.

 

Being admitted or admitting yourself to a psychiatric facility is not failure. When you’re overwhelmed and trapped, when it feels like there’s no way out of your depression, you’re in crisis mode. Your life is in danger. And when you’re in crisis or almost crisis mode, it’s okay and sometimes very, very necessary to take a break from “the outside world” until you are safe.

 

Hey, I love vacations. I prefer them to be somewhere warm and sunny. I like great food and tropical views and access to a nice pool. But when you lose yourself, when you’re incurably depressed, you’re going to need a little more than amazing guacamole and pina coladas to get you rejuvenated enough to want to go back home. So, the next time you hear about someone going to a mental hospital/psych ward/behavioral health facility, or if you or a friend is in crisis, don’t discount a “mental health vacation.”

 

I know my experiences aren’t going to be the same as everyone else’s and I won’t sugarcoat all the details about if you ask. But don’t dismiss hospitalization because of what you’ve seen on TV or movies. It’s not glamorous but it’s also not a giant cuckoo’s nest. A big reason my stays were successful was because I was able to drop the stigma attached to being hospitalized.

 

For me, this is true: All three times I stepped into a psychiatric ward, I went in ready to take my life. And all three times I left, I was safe. I was still alive.

 

I’m here today and I will be here tomorrow.

 

 

Note to reader: I’m very aware that hospitalization requires money and/or a good healthcare program. In my case, my first two hospitalizations were paid for using state’s healthcare program/healthcare assistance. In the third instance, my husband’s healthcare covered a lot of the bill. We were then able to pay the copays with a payment plan. It was a lot of money, but hello! The cost of a life…very worth it. Please don’t let finances or the stigma you may have attached to lack of finances prevent you from seeking help. Here are a few resources you can start with:

 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s 24 hour toll-free crisis hotline, 1.800.273.TALK (1.800.273.8255) can put you into contact with your local crisis center that can tell you where to seek immediate help in your area.

Child-Help USA 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453) crisis line assists both child and adult survivors of abuse, including sexual abuse. The hotline, staffed by mental health professionals, also provides treatment referrals.

In areas where 211 is available, this number connects you with mental health crisis services in your area.

 

Meet Ami Allen-Vath

Ami Allen-Vath author picAmi Allen-Vath is an ice cream enthusiast and a loather of cilantro. She’s the author of LIARS AND LOSERS LIKE US, about a teen dealing with anxiety, grief, and first love––all during prom season. Ami can be found on Twitter: @amilouiseallen, Facebook and amiallenvath.com.

 

 

 

 

About Liars and Losers Like Us

liarsKeep calm and make it to prom night—without a legit panic attack.

For seventeen-year-old Bree Hughes, it’s easier said than done when gossip, grief, and the opportunity to fail at love are practically high-fiving her in the hallways of Belmont High.

When Bree’s crush, Sean Mills, gives her his phone number, she can’t even leave a voicemail without sounding like a freak. Then she’s asked to be on Prom Court because Maisey Morgan, the school outcast nominated as a joke, declined. She apologizes to Maisey, but it’s too late. After years of torment and an ugly secret shared with their class’s cruel Pageant Queen, Maisey commits suicide. Bree is left with a lot of regret…and a revealing letter with a final request.

With Sean by her side, Bree navigates through her guilt, her parents’ divorce, and all the Prom Court drama. But when a cheating-love-triangle secret hits the fan after a night of sex, drinks, and video games, she’s left with new information about Sean and the class Pageant Queen. Bree must now speak up or stay silent. If she lets fear be her guide, she’ll lose her first love, and head to prom to avenge the death of the school outcast—as a party of one. (Sky Pony Press, March 22, 2016. SEE AMANDA’S REVIEW HERE.)

Book Review: Liars and Losers Like Us by Ami Allen-Vath

Publisher’s description

liarsKeep calm and make it to prom night—without a legit panic attack.

For seventeen-year-old Bree Hughes, it’s easier said than done when gossip, grief, and the opportunity to fail at love are practically high-fiving her in the hallways of Belmont High.

When Bree’s crush, Sean Mills, gives her his phone number, she can’t even leave a voicemail without sounding like a freak. Then she’s asked to be on Prom Court because Maisey Morgan, the school outcast nominated as a joke, declined. She apologizes to Maisey, but it’s too late. After years of torment and an ugly secret shared with their class’s cruel Pageant Queen, Maisey commits suicide. Bree is left with a lot of regret…and a revealing letter with a final request.

With Sean by her side, Bree navigates through her guilt, her parents’ divorce, and all the Prom Court drama. But when a cheating-love-triangle secret hits the fan after a night of sex, drinks, and video games, she’s left with new information about Sean and the class Pageant Queen. Bree must now speak up or stay silent. If she lets fear be her guide, she’ll lose her first love, and head to prom to avenge the death of the school outcast—as a party of one.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

I loved this book. It was the perfect mix of funny and serious. Minus the more serious themes, it would have just been a fish-out-of-water prom story, which I would’ve been fine with. But it rises above that (sometimes tired) idea and becomes a more widely appealing story with the addition of some complicated storylines. Mexican-American Minnesota teenager Bree Hughes never expects to grab the attention of her crush, Sean, nor does she expect to get elected to the prom court. It seems like lots of unexpected things are suddenly happening in Bree’s life. After years of fighting, her parents have recently gotten divorced. She’s getting into arguments with Kallie, her best friend, and keeping things from her. She’s becoming friends with the popular crowd. Perhaps most unexpected is the letter Maisey, her classmate who dies from suicide, leaves for her. We don’t know much about the letter until the very end of the book, but it’s intense.

 

Bree also suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, something she doesn’t necessarily think she needs help for. Her mother makes an appointment for her with a therapist, but Bree doesn’t see the point in going. Never mind that her panic attacks are debilitating and don’t exactly seem to be going away on their own. When she reluctantly goes to the appointment, she realizes how helpful therapy could be and changes her mind about needing help. It’s a wonderful look at someone being resistant to help, wondering what good it could possibly do to sit and talk to someone, who comes to understand how beneficial mental health care is.

 

Despite dealing with some serious issues, there’s also lots of romance in this story. Bree is so awkward and nervous at the beginning of her relationship with Sean. Their relationship grows in a very believable way. The large cast of secondary characters means there’s plenty of opportunity for drama, cheating, lying, and backstabbing. Bree and her (new) friends prove that what you see is not always the same as what’s going on underneath the surface. Secrets are revealed that show many people in new lights. Maisey’s letter, finally revealed in its entirety at the end of the story, packs a powerful punch as she writes about popularity, cruelty, bullying, and painful secrets. A smart and satisfying read.

 

Review copy courtesy of the author and the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781634501842

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Publication date: 03/22/2016