Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published October 11, 2016. Delacorte Press. 375 p. (Includes “Author’s Note,” and a list of Sources.)
Catherine, a seventeen-year-old high school junior used to be a dancer, used to have two best friends, and used to have a normal life. Everything changed her freshman year when her grandmother died and she was diagnosed as bipolar. Now life revolves around therapy, counseling, medication and loneliness.
After unsuccessfully trying to commit suicide during an especially bad case of depression, Catherine is sure she can never live a normal life. Depression, which she calls “zero,” will always suck her dry so she has decided it would be best to have an escape plan. Her plan consists of stockpiling pills to use when Zero rears its ugly head.
Catherine thinks being bipolar means she can never drive, go to college, have a boyfriend or live the life she was meant to live. As she prepares for Zero and her pills, she begins to live in ways she’d never thought possible. Should she dare to dream of life beyond Zero, or will Zero continue to erase every one of her hopes and dreams?
Fortunati offers hope to teens suffering from bipolar depression. I hope Catherine’s story will be a beacon to lead them to safer waters.
Recommended for 14 and older.
Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. DCI Lorraine Fisher #2. 2015. Crown (Random House.)
Detective Inspector Lorraine Fisher planned to have a nice vacation with her sister Jo and nephew Freddie in her childhood country home. Though surprised to find Freddie moody and uncommunicative, she brushes off Jo’s concern he might be suicidal because their neighbor Simon and 5 others killed themselves 18 months earlier. Jo is certain the recent suicide of Dean, a homeless teen motorcyclist, would lead to more suicides.
When an autistic neighbor shows her a drawing he made of the accident, showing there had been two people on the motorcycle when Dean died, Lorraine’s interest is piqued. Soon Lenny, another homeless teen, commits suicide and Freddie disappears, leaving Lorraine to find out what happened. What she doesn’t know is that someone has been very clever and will stop at nothing, even murder, to keep secrets hidden that will turn the town upside down.
This whodunit kept me biting my nails and sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation as Hayes cleverly dropped clues about various key characters. Just when I was convinced I knew what happened, she threw a very clever curveball that left me scratching my head in disbelief. Hayes is an author who does not disappoint, and I look forward to reading more of her books.
Though this book was the second in a series about Detective Lorraine Fisher, it stands alone as each book has its own storyline.
Highly recommended for Adults.
Rated 4 stars **** 2014. Createspace. 236 pp.
Mary McManus incorporates memories, as well as present-time events, to tell the story of her life after contracting polio at the age of five. Despite recovering from this disease she faced years of physical, mental and emotional abuse from her parents and grandmother.
Over the years the stresses brought on by these abuses accumulated in her body causing severe physical problems, and resulting in a diagnosis of post-polio syndrome when Mary was just a few years away from retirement. Physicians and therapists at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, as well as other health caregivers, worked together to give Mary the spiritual, physical and emotional strength she needed to heal her body from its trauma.
Determined to do something meaningful with her newfound feeling of mental and physical strength, Mary decided to run the 2009 Boston Marathon to raise money for Spaulding Rehab. Triumphantly crossing the finish line of the marathon was just one of Mary’s many accomplishments described in “Coming Home,” as she valiantly worked to regain the person she had lost at the age of five and rewrite her past.
Mary is a fellow member of my running club, the L Street Running Club in South Boston. After reading her self-published life story, I have to salute the courage and strength she displayed in working through extreme trials which a young girl should have never had to endure, and which led to the beautiful and generous person she has become today. Mary, you are a survivor and I salute you!
Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know I try not to read self-published books because of the amount of grammatical errors usually contained within them. However, since Mary was generous enough to donate part of the proceeds of her book to a reputable charity, and is a fellow club member, I felt I should read her book and learn about her story. I was able to put aside my editing hat and read Mary’s story for its rawness and truthfulness. I gave it a 4 star rating for its content, and trust you will agree when you read it.
Recommended for Adult readers.
Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published October 14, 2014. Random House (Ballantine Books.) 407 pp. Includes “Author’s Note.”
Thirteen-year-old Jenna Metcalf has lived with her grandmother since she was 3 years old, when her mother Alice disappeared from the hospital where she was taken after she was found injured at the elephant sanctuary where she worked.
With her father committed to a facility for the insane and her grandmother refusing to reveal any details of Alice’s life, all Jenna has are her brief memories and her mother’s research journals on elephant grief. Knowing that if she wanted to find her mother she would have to suspend her scientific disbelief in the supernatural she decides to hire Serenity Jones, a disgraced psychic, along with Virgil Stanhope, the former detective on her mother’s case, to find her mom.
Serenity has not been able to access the spirit world since she made an incorrect prediction on her former television show, but feels she was meant to help Jenna find her mother. Believing Alice holds the clue to what happened the night they found her, and that she could finally explain why a body was found trampled by an elephant, Virgil decides to help Jenna in order to gain closure. Neither Jenna, Virgil nor Serenity know their search for Alice will take them on a trip through the past that neither of them ever expected.
In alternating voices Jenna, Virgil, Serenity, and Alice tell their stories, allowing readers to gain a complete picture of what actually led to that dark night 10 years ago when Alice disappeared. Picoult has deftly woven together a story of mystery, love and suspense along with beautiful true stories of elephant love and behavior towards one another.
In the Author’s Note, she references The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald Tennessee as the place where she observed the behaviors used for her elephants in “Leaving Time.” The plight of elephants in Africa and zoos across the world will resound with Picoult’s readers, along with Jenna’s story, in her latest blockbuster book. PS – The author asked that I not reveal the ending, so will leave it up to you to discover as you read it for yourself.
Recommended for Adult readers.
Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. To be published January 8, 2014. Flux.
Oona Antunes hated her mom demanding life be perfect, and missed the father who was always away on business. Fascinated with water, as it reflected her own disappearing and despairing life, she kept a journal detailing water facts.
In the middle of a winter dance Oona split herself into two different people. The new “spirit self” became the narrator and, through her eyes, readers saw Oona leave the dance to freeze to death on a mountain trail.
When Oona awoke in the hospital, it was to the realization she had died for almost 20 minutes and had lost several fingers and toes, as well as part of her nose and cheek, to frostbite. While healing she realized the pain her attempted suicide had cost others, and attempted to set things right with them and with herself by Living with a capital “L.”
Part of her healing came about when she accompanied the school’s guidance counselor to a Native American School where she realized everyone’s sense of family and identity was something she wanted. Oona was sure her distant and unemotional father held the key to her family’s happiness, feeling she could help him to Live, but would soon find she had undertaken a task far greater than she had expected.
Through “The view from who I was” Seppenfield takes a look at suicide and its effects on those left behind. Oona’s raw and honest journey of self-discovery will resound with her readers.
Recommended for ages 14 and older.
Rated 4 stars **** 2013. Little, Brown & Company (Hachette Book Group). 273 pp.
Leonard Peacock is very angry because today is his 18th birthday and no one remembered, including his own absentee mother who moved to New York and left him alone in New Jersey. To celebrate he cuts off all his hair, and wraps presents to deliver to four people who made a difference in his life. He plans to end the day by killing his former best friend with his grandfather’s old World War II gun then killing himself.
Through Leonard’s first person accounts, letters written to himself in the future, and copious footnotes, readers see someone who is highly intelligent, misunderstood, hurt and confused. His next-door neighbor Walt, and World War II Holocaust teacher Herr Silverman are the only ones with whom he can be himself. With Walt he can watch Humphrey Bogart movies and disappear into a fantasy life, while Herr Silverman challenges him creatively, making him feel like a real person who matters in life.
Gradually readers come to see why Leonard is so desperate, and gain understanding into the person he was forced to become by those in his life who hurt him. The pain he suffers, and the solutions he chooses to ease that pain, are explored in detail and will give readers food for thought. Hopefully Leonard’s story will enable teens suffering through this kind of pain to realize there is hope, and that suicide isn’t the answer to their problems.
Recommended for ages 14 and older.
Listed on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults list (compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).
Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Farrar Straus Giroux. 214 pp. (Includes “Recommended Listening” song list).
Sixteen-year-old Elise Dembowski hates herself, and her life. After being ostracized by every single student in her school since fourth grade, and having this behavior continue through middle and high school, she decided to spend her summer studying fashion, song titles and other “cool” trends. Elise was ready to remake herself, and was sure the popular kids would like and accept her if she knew the right ways to be popular. When the taunting and bullying continued, Elise realized she would never be different and could never change. Thus, she felt her only recourse was to kill herself.
With her suicide attempt unsuccessful, Elise was at the end of her rope. Unable to sleep, she began walking the streets late at night where she came upon a weekly underground dance club. Despite being underage she was befriended by Vicky and Pippa, two girls who knew what they wanted in life and went out to get it. They introduced her to handsome Char, the club’s DJ, who took her under his wing teaching her how to mix music and other skills.
Elise soon discovered she had a natural talent as a DJ, along with several friends and a new, albeit secret, life. Looking forward to spending time at the club helped make her miserable days at school more bearable, but it was only a matter of time before online bullying reared its ugly head threatening Elise’s newfound strength and happiness.
Leila Sales paints a true-to-life story of a young girl living on the edge who finds friends who care about her wellbeing. I hope her readers will take seriously the importance of being a friend to someone in need of social acceptance.
Recommended for readers aged 14 and older.
Listed on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults list (compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)