Book Review: Suicide Watch by Kelley York

Posted September 16, 2013 by Kara in book review, Lyn / 21 Comments

Book Review: Suicide Watch by Kelley YorkSuicide Watch by Kelley York
Published by Self Published on December 16th, 2012
Genres: contemporary, young adult
Pages: 220
Format: eBook
Source: Publisher
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four-stars

Vincent has spent his entire life being shuffled from one foster home to the next. His grades suck. Making friends? Out of the question thanks to his nervous breakdowns and unpredictable moods. Still, Vince thought when Maggie Atkins took him in, he might've finally found a place to get his life--and his issues--in order.When Maggie dies, it all falls apart.A year ago, Vince watched a girl leap to her death off a bridge. He's starting to think she had the right idea. Through a pro-suicide forum, Vince meets others with the same debate regarding death: cancer-ridden Casper would rather off herself than slowly waste away, and there's quiet, withdrawn Adam, whose mother wouldn't notice if he fell off the face of the planet.As they gravitate toward each other, Vince searches for a reason to live while coping without Maggie, coming to terms with Casper's imminent death, and falling in love with a boy who doesn't plan on sticking around.

This is going to be one of my more serious posts.

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It was hard to decide to read this book.  I won’t bore you with too much back history, but I will try to touch upon it.  My own sister attempted suicide when she was in high school.  She survived, but the splinters of the decision worked into the skin of our family unit.  We weren’t a perfect family.  My father left my mom due to depression when I was in kindergarten, and he began to grow distant from us when we remarried when I was in 3rd grade.  His new wife hated us.  My mother remarried to someone I strongly disliked as well.  Rampant manic depression and crippling anxiety was unkindly given to both my little sister and I on both sides of the family.  Outside of the family, school life wasn’t working out as well.  I struggled with interaction with peers daily, since I was fighting an unknown mental illness.  I wasn’t anywhere near pretty or feminine.  I loved things that were unpopular during my high school years, such as video games and role playing. Other girls loved Clueless, and I was caught up on animated shows and Nintendo. I didn’t fit in, and everyone reminded me.  My mother, at the time, was fighting her own issues and thought the best way to deal with her daughters’ mental breakdowns and anxiety attacks was to just ignore them and hope that we would just “grow up”.
It was not the best of times. But we could no longer ignore what was happening to each of us.
It is weird how the universe plays out.  My sister attempted to end her own pain on Valentine’s Day (the holiday was not the reason – she had other issues that forced her hand).  It happened on a Tuesday.  I had stored back the pills for my own attempt for that weekend, not knowing that she was planning the same thing.  My sister was handed over to a mental hospital, and I was hauled into the doctor once she was diagnosed with manic depression.  I talked to the doctor, and an hour later, I was handed a prescription. He later told my mother that I was barely functioning. My grades were bad and I would just sit for hours in my room, listening to music, because I just didn’t have the will to do anything else.
 
Those pills saved my life.  My sister’s own suicide attempt did the same thing.  This happened over ten years ago.  Her kidneys have permanent damage, but she’s alive.  My mother has calmed down in her older age, and she is the mother I have always wanted.  I just flat out do not talk to my father any longer since I stood up to my stepmother and told her she was a bully to my sister and I when we were growing up. Things have gotten way better from my teen years.
But the battle is never over.  
 
We both still fight it every day.  I’m smart enough to tell people when I am feeling really, really, really down.  During all of this transition time, when I finally graduated, failed at finding a job I liked, had my car break down, lost my apartment, and took up a summer job that nearly drove me to my breaking point, I was smart enough to go to my mother and tell her I would honestly rather die than to keep going.  
I’m better now.  I am back on my medication and I am trying to see the silver lining during these rough times.
 
So reading a book about suicide, especially during this time, worried me.  
 
But it actually made me stronger.  The main character, fresh, new adult member of society Vincent, mirrored a lot of my own issues.  He is a fictional character, but his own bouts of depression and emotional turmoil mirrored my own issues, and I instantly felt a strong connection to his own wild fits of emotional onslaught.  We were alike, and for 220 pages, I finally felt that someone KNEW HOW I FELT EVERY DAY.  Crying over the stupidest shit while feeling nothing over tragic occurrences.  The constant fear of others disliking you for who you are, and the pain of rejection.  The constant procrastination of daily living and the inability to look ahead when things are tough. Yes, Vincent, others feel the way you do.  
 
And then Casper, the wonderfully bitchy and sickly female lead, beats it into his head that he is broken, but he can be fixed. In Depression Land, we need the Caspers to come raging in and shake up the bleakness of the landscape.  Sometimes, the painful truth of honesty is a bitter pill that can tip off the healing.  The love of those who have lost all hope, who have no future, can align the misery of mental sickness.
 
The details surrounding the Suicide Watch website and storyline was majorly overshadowed by the emotional and social growth of the main character.  I would have liked to see more of the plot surrounding the pro-suicide website and the others who ran to it in their most painful times, but I also needed to see someone recovering from the savage mental battle of depression and what to do when you have no idea how to recover from your world shattering.
 
This book is about hope, and how mending takes time and other people.  How we can help one another when the chips are down. The story is about love when you think there is no more love to be found.  York is point blank honest: You are a broken brain functioning in a body, but it isn’t forever if you just let others in.  It’s hard – letting people see the broken pieces inside of you.  You just want someone to love you, shitty brain chemistry and all.  
 
So, final thoughts: This book derails from the arc surrounding the moral standings of a pro-suicide website and instead turns the focus on a young boy coming to terms with his own issues while pulling two other broken teenagers along for the ride.  This book is going to hurt like a bitch, and it is going to be a shot of bittersweet reality about mental illness and how to function.  It is ugly, and it is beautiful for that reason.
 
For someone who can phrase it better, check out Ally Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half post about living with depression.
I don’t want to leave this post on a sad note, so here is a kitten:
 
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21 responses to “Book Review: Suicide Watch by Kelley York

  1. Thank you for sharing a bit of your story, Lyn. I went through a small phase of depression myself last year/this year, but I’ve been getting better ever since books and you bookish loverlies came into my life. I’m glad that you could relate to this book so deeply!

    Lovely review. <33

    • Thank you, Melanie, for leaving such kind words! I was honestly worried about sharing this post, but I figured it was time to let it out and let others know my own past.

  2. Amy

    Lyn, it was very brave of you to share your story. I am so glad that you are doing better and have the people you need to support you when you are at your low points. This book was very emotional for me, so I can’t even imagine how tough it had to be for someone who understands and relates to it so well. Your review is beautiful. (And everyone loves cute kitten gifs)

  3. Lyn! Lovely review and such a courageous post. *hugs* I am SO HAPPY that things got better for you and for your sister. SO happy. It sounds like your childhood was an awful time, but it makes me glad that you and your sister have been able to start moving beyond it and living better lives, that you deserve.

    I read Kelly’s first book, Hushed, and it was dark, but I adored it. I’m glad to see her tackling this sort of subject, and talking about it, and as a reader, it’s good that you could relate. I will have to keep an eye out for this book.

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

    • Thank you, Molli! It was a terrible time, but I am glad I can come out of it intact. Now I just need to get to a point where I feel comfortable with y own mental issues.

      I will be reading more by this author – her writing is awesome.

  4. This book sounds like such an important and hard hitting, emotional book!

    Also, I am so happy that both you and your sister have pulled through, received help, and while it is still an ongoing struggle, that you have people around that you can trust to help you through those times. As someone who has also dealt with bouts of anxiety and depression, as well as having family members and friends who have severe depression, I really appreciated you opening up and discussing the personal side to this book. *hugs*

  5. I don’t often comment on reviews of my books, but I felt I should in this case. Thank you for sharing your story. Vincent was/is a character I connect to because a lot of his struggles have also been mine, and I desperately hoped someone out there–like you–would also relate and find some small glimmer of hope in his struggle and what he accomplishes.

    Thank you again for sharing such intimate details about your own struggle. I know it never “gets better” permanently; it’s a daily battle. But know you’ve always got someone in your corner rooting for you to pull ahead.

    • Thank you for your reply, Ms. York. Your book was amazing and very honest about mental illness. I suspect that you are fighting depression as well, since your story was right on the dot. I think it is wonderful that there is a book with the gritty reality. I like that Vincent was still a mess at the end. There is no happy ending for depression. Instead, there is the strength to carry on every day.

  6. Wow, this was a very brave post and I’m impressed with your strength in writing it! I actually just bought this book since it’s on sale–and it had been on my list for a while–but I’m now scared to read it since I have the same issues! I think it will be okay because I’m also lucky to have found a medication that works for me.

    • I think it will help you feel a little less alone in the world. I was amazed that someone was able to write, with such clarity, what I feel day in and day out.
      If you do read it, I will look forward to your feedback and your own thoughts. Until then, many hugs, darling!

    • I’ve actually read another book that is eerily accurate about depression–Darkness Visible by William Styron. And parts of The Bell Jar I relate to, although other parts just really annoy me.

    • I’ve actually read another book that is eerily accurate about depression–Darkness Visible by William Styron. And parts of The Bell Jar I relate to, although other parts just really annoy me.

  7. <3 to you, Lyn. I’m no stranger to depression either, and it’s always hard to find your way back to a place where you can function and breathe and be happy. But kittens help! As do friends. And I hope you’ll never hesitate to ask for help if you need it. I’m here for you, and I know many other people are, too.

    • Hi, Wendy. <3

      Thank you for all of your help. I cannot think of a more caring person than you – you are our rock. And I am here for you as well!

  8. Even if I have never had any personal experiences with suicide myself (or with anyone I know – that I know of) I find it pretty hard to read about, so I think you have a lot of courage to have read this book, especially because of your history! And even if we’ve never met in real life, I think you’re a beautiful and wonderful person, you just proved it by writing such a personal post about Suicide Watch, and I’m sure you’ve helped someone who came upon this review by chance – and now they, too, know that they are not alone.

    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

  9. Lyn <3
    I’m a little late in commenting, I know. I did read the post the day it went up but I have trouble getting right to posting comments immendiately sometimes. I didn’t forget this post, though, and wanted to still stop by and leave my thoughts–especially now that I’ve had more time to gather them together.

    Thank YOU for taking a moment in sharing a piece of your story with everyone. I understand how hard that alone can be. Sometimes, even sharing a little bit helps…whether it’s yourself or someone else. And sometimes we find a book that really makes us stop to think for a moment, or a character that is so relatable to our current or former selves, that it’s bound to stick with us long after. I’m glad this book was one for you…that it didn’t turn out to be the conflict you were initially worried about before starting it, but rather the opposite. Even if it didn’t meet all of your expectations as far as the reading went, at least you know it’s going to be one you’ll remember and did enjoy by the time you were through. 🙂

    I know how it is with the whole family drama thing, I do. Mine started out when I was real young, except I was raised as an only child (my half-brothers are much, much older). I’d considered suicide a few times from the time I was 10 until I was 16. I’ve struggled on/off through the last decade and a half with eating disorders. I use my family doc as basically my “psychologist” because I can’t afford to go talk to a real one. And really, all it takes is a good friend sometimes anyway in my opinion.

    I am so so so glad you and your sister are doing better now. I understand that it’s a battle in a never-ending war, and there’s going to be that constant struggle. But with a great support system, things can work. <3 I’m also glad that you have a better relationship with your mother now and that makes it a bit easier for you also. As my mom is aging too, I have been having a better relationship with her–but I can’t say for sure if I’ll ever get past the grudge I hold against her. It is just taking me time.

    I read Ms. York’s first book. Had her on my blog as a guest once. 😉 It was fantastic. But now I really look forward to reading this one as well thanks to your review. It also sounds like such a spirited and honest read that anyone who deals, has dealt with, or knows anyone who deals with depression should try.

    Also, you know anytime you need to talk about anything you’re welcome to contact. 🙂

    P.S. Nintendo and animated shows were the best.

    P.P.S. Kitty!

    <3 always,

    Pixie

    • Ten years old – that is very very rough to deal with those kind of thoughts at such a young age. I read about your backstory and I am always amazed how strong and caring you are. You beat the odds and you are such a fabulous person, and you are just wonderful.

      Holding a grudge for parents is so….tricky. I always feel anxiety over holidays, because everyone pushes “family” on every media outlet. My mother and I discussed what happened, and it was so therapeutic. It did the opposite for my father, however, and we’re very alienated now. I really hope things improve for you and your mother.

      Thank you for commenting. I should have a longer reply, but I can say that this is a beautiful reply, and I cannot thank you enough for your warmth and your kindness, Pixie. <3

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