Here are my mini-reviews of By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters and Crash Into Me by Albert Borris.
By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters is quite a difficult book to read at times. The main character, Daelyn is a pretty broken teenage girl - both emotionally and physically. As she tells her story, it becomes quite clear how bullying has made her school experiences into a living nightmare. She has attempted suicide on a number of occasions, and as this story begins, she is unable to speak because of some as yet untold trauma to her throat.
As Daelyn sits and waits outside school for her mother to pick her up, she meets Santana a boy so full of life and energy that it is quite hard not to find him likeable and fun to be around. But Daelyn is already in the mindset of ending her life. She logs onto a website that helps people to complete the act of suicide. Once there, Daelyn begins to share some of her story and the things that she's been through.
The information on this website can come across as being quite uncomfortable to read - detailing different ways of killing yourself, the mess factor and giving it all a score out of 10. It's a very blunt and direct method of talking about the particulars of suicide but it also asks some serious and thought-provoking questions about why, how and what happens after a person does commit suicide.
This was a very sad and really quite bleak book. There are brief aspects of brightness and life-affirmation mostly in terms of Daelyn's friend Santana, but mostly this book felt very heavy. I wanted there to be more hope but that is always difficult to achieve with the levels of bullying and torment that Daelyn has suffered through.
Somewhat embarassingly, I bought Crash Into Me by Albert Borris because I thought (from the cover) that this book would be a contemporary love story. When I had the book in my hands imagine my surprise when it is in fact a book about four depressed teenagers who have made a suicide pact.
I soldiered on anyway, and what I found was quite an emotional, sad and hopeful book. These four teenagers: Own, Frank, Audrey and Jin-Ae are very different. They have different life experiences and reasons for wanting to end their lives, all of which are explored throughout Crash Into Me. There's bullying and abuse, pressure and high expectations. We mostly see the story from Owen's perspective but the narrative is also interspersed with some online chat that occurred between the group before.
Having met online, the four decide that they will go on one final epic road trip together, visiting the graves of famous people who have committed suicide. On the way, they share their secrets and the many different ways these teenagers have struggled in their lives. But they all still have things they'd wish they could accomplish or do, if they'd lived other lives.
I didn't particularly feel very emotionally invested in any of the characters aside from Owen. When he's finally able to admit the guilt and grief that he feels over an incident that involved the death of a loved one, I really became overwhelmed with sorrow for him. It's a lot of emotion for anyone to carry.
All in all, I 'enjoyed' this book. It had moments where I really connected to these characters. I found it interesting some of the famous people that they discuss who have committed suicide (Kurt Cobain, Ernest Hemingway) and despite the grim storyline, it didn't feel as heavy and weighed down as I would have expected. For those interested in music, there's even a playlist included!