Tag Archives: suicide

Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich

Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich. October 9, 2018. Poppy, 368 p. ISBN: 9780316420235.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 590.

From the show’s creators comes the groundbreaking novel inspired by the Broadway smash hit Dear Evan Hansen.

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore–even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Suicide, Suicidal thoughts

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Evan Hansen, a teen crippled by anxiety, starts each day by writing a letter of encouragement to himself. When loner Connor Murphy finds one of the letters at school and dies by suicide days later, his parents deliver the “Dear Evan Hansen” to Evan, who lies about being Connor’s best friend. As the Murphys embrace Evan, his lie goes viral, giving comfort to the grieving family and making him a social media darling. But as the lies build, Evan’s guilt forces him to admit the truth. In this stage-to-page adaptation, characters’ back stories offer depth only hinted at by the Tony Award–winning musical. Connor’s posthumous narration offers insights into his mental state, while Evan’s voice and interior monologues reveal the intensity of his own. The ending eases some of the rockiness of Evan’s life, and while there are no overt consequences for his deception, he is seemingly left to ponder his actions. Readers who long for acceptance will welcome this opportunity to experience Evan’s story.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2018)
Emmich (The Reminders, 2017) joins the team behind the Tony-winning musical to create this novel adaptation. Awkward high school senior Evan Hansen has zero friends and a debilitating mixture of depression and anxiety. As a coping mechanism, his therapist assigns him to write letters to himself to reframe his thinking. When one of those letters is found on the body of Connor Murphy, a loner classmate and brother of Evan’s crush, Zoe, the Murphys assume that Connor addressed a suicide note to Evan and that the boys were secretly friends. Evan does nothing to dissuade this notion, and soon his lies build as he experiences belonging and acceptance for the first time. But as his anxiety winds ever tighter and others notice loopholes in his story, Evan begins to unravel as he fears exposure. Evan’s first-person narration is simultaneously sympathetic and frustrating, female characters feel underdeveloped, and the story’s representation of mental health issues is at times underwhelming. Inserted interludes of Connor’s ghostly first-person, post-death perspective provide marginal insight into his character, although it is here that readers learn of Connor’s fluid sexuality. Whether or not they’ve seen or listened to the musical, many readers will latch on to the story’s message that “no one deserves to be forgotten.” Evan presents as white, and other major characters are African-American and Latinx. Without the rich music and stage performance it’s a middling story with themes better handled elsewhere; impeccably timed for the musical’s national tour, however, teens will clamor to read it. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Dubbed a “Renaissance Man” by the New York Post, Val Emmich is a writer, a singer-songwriter, and an actor. His first novel, The Reminders, was a Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers selection and his follow-up, Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel, based on the hit Broadway show, was a New York Times bestseller. He’s had recurring roles on Vinyl and Ugly Betty, as well as a memorable guest role as Tina Fey’s coffee-boy fling, Jamie, on 30 Rock. Emmich lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.

His website is valemmich.com

Teacher Resources

Dear Evan Hansen Educator’s Guide

Dear Evan Hansen review on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

Dear Evan Hansen on Amazon

Dear Evan Hansen on Barnes and Noble

Dear Evan Hansen on Goodreads

Dear Evan Hansen on LibraryThing

Dear Evan Hansen Publisher Page

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan. March 20, 2018. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 462 p. ISBN: 9780316463997.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. Leigh shatters after her mother’s suicide—who wouldn’t?—but when a huge, beautiful red bird appears and calls her name in her mother’s voice, she doesn’t think she’s hallucinating; she’s sure the bird is actually her mother, and not “some William Faulkner stream-of-consciousness metaphorical crap.” When the bird brings Leigh a box of letters and photos from her mother’s childhood in Taiwan, she convinces her white father to take her to Taipei to meet her mother’s estranged parents for the first time. There she digs into her family’s past, visiting her mother’s favorite places and keeping an eye out for the bird, which grows ever more elusive the longer Leigh searches. In Leigh’s strong, painterly voice and with evocative, fantastical elements, Pan movingly explores grief and loss, as well as Leigh’s meaningful search for connection to her secretive mother and her exploration of the many facets of her identity. Particularly laudable is Pan’s sensitive treatment of mental illness: Leigh learns many heartbreaking things about her mother’s life, but those moments are never offered as explanations for suicide; rather, it’s the result of her mother’s lifelong struggle with severe, debilitating depression. Dynamic, brave Leigh emerges vividly in Pan’s deft hand, and her enthralling journey through her grief glows with stunning warmth, strength, and resilience.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2018)
“My mother is a bird,” declares Leigh, a mixed-raced (hun-xie) Taiwanese American teen. She has seen her mother reincarnated as a large red bird and knows that Mom is trying to guide Leigh in understanding the reasons for her tragic suicide. (Leigh also must contend with the crushing guilt of kissing her best friend, Axel, on the day Mom died.) Leigh travels to Taipei to stay with her maternal grandparents, with whom she can barely communicate. There she embarks on a fervent and grief-stricken odyssey riddled with insomnia and confusion, piecing together her mother’s past by lighting magical incense sticks that allow her to witness fragments of others’ memories. Pan portrays Leigh as a talented visual artist, telling her story with a vividness punctuated by a host of highly specific hues: a “cerise punch” to the gut, “viridian spiraling” thoughts, a heart “bursting with manganese blue and new gamboges yellow and quinacridone rose.” Some readers might be put off by the abundant imagery, but it—along with the threads of Taiwanese mysticism and her mingling of ghosts (gui) with the living—creates a hypnotic narrative. roxanne hsu Feldman

About the Author

Emily X.R. Pan currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, but was originally born in the Midwestern United States to immigrant parents from Taiwan. She received her MFA in fiction from NYU, where she was a Goldwater Fellow. She was the founding editor-in-chief of Bodega Magazine, a 2017 Artist-in-Residence at Djerassi, and is co-creator of FORESHADOW: A Serial YA Anthology.

Her website is exrpan.com.

Teacher Resources

The Astonishing Color of After Discussion Questions

Around the Web

The Astonishing Color of After on Amazon

The Astonishing Color of After on Goodreads

The Astonishing Color of After Publisher Page

In 27 Days by Alison Gervais

In 27 Days by Alison Gervais. July 25, 2017. Blink, 352 p. ISBN: 9780310759058.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Hadley Jamison is shocked when she hears that her classmate, Archer Morales, has committed suicide. She didn’t know the quiet, reserved guy very well, but that doesn’t stop her from feeling there was something she could have done to help him.

Hoping to find some sense of closure, Hadley attends Archer’s funeral. There, Hadley is approached by a man who calls himself Death and offers her a deal. If Hadley accepts, she will be sent back 27 days in time to prevent Archer from killing himself. But when Hadley agrees to Death’s terms and goes back to right the past, she quickly learns her mission is harder than she ever could have known.

Hadley soon discovers Archer’s reasons for being alone, and Archer realizes that having someone to confide in isn’t as bad as he’d always thought. But when a series of dangerous accidents starts pushing them apart, Hadley must decide whether she is ready to risk everything – including her life – to keep Archer safe.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Suicide

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Online))
Grades 8-11. As Hadley Jamison mourns a classmate who committed suicide, a man calling himself Death offers her a unique opportunity: go back 27 days into the past to prevent Archer Morales from taking his life. Hadley is suddenly jerked backward in time and finds that her mission is far from simple—Archer’s anger toward the world pushes her away. Even more treacherous is Hadley’s discovery that Death isn’t the only eternal being with its eyes on her. Gervais transitions her hit Wattpad story into a fleshed-out novel, managing to retain the energy that earned it more than two million readers. The book’s centerpiece is plucky Hadley herself. Despite all efforts to thwart her, Hadley remains resolute in her mission to save a stranger from an untimely death. In doing so, she must confront how her own seemingly perfect family is far more dysfunctional than she’d like to believe. This is a fun, quick, yet emotional read that readers will have a hard time putting down.

School Library Journal (June 1, 2017)
Gr 7 Up-Sixteen-year-old Hadley Jamison is strangely troubled by the suicide of one of her classmates. Though she knew Archer only from sitting next to him in English class two years earlier, she wonders whether she could have done anything to keep the quiet, surly boy from killing himself. After Archer’s funeral, a man known as Death approaches Hadley and offers her the opportunity to go back in time 27 days to save Archer. Hadley accepts, and over the next several weeks, she forces her company on Archer, convincing him to tutor her in geometry and working at his family’s coffee shop. She becomes close with his family, soon spending all her free time with them, in stark contrast to her usual routine of evenings alone in her Upper East Side apartment. Slowly, Hadley learns the truth about what led Archer to commit suicide. Her stubborn refusal to leave him alone seems noble in the context of a lifesaving mission but in reality would be disturbing. Repeated violations of personal boundaries should not be romanticized. The message that one teenager should take on total responsibility for preventing another’s suicide is also troubling. VERDICT Fast-paced and filled with romance, this would likely appeal to some reluctant readers. However, the immature writing style, the clumsy and heavy-handed delivery, a tone that is too light for the subject matter, and unhealthy messages for teenagers should make librarians pause before adding this to their collections.-Liz Overberg, Zionsville Community High School, IN

About the Author

Watty Award-winning author Alison Gervais has been writing for as long as she can remember. In 2011, she began posting her work on Wattpad.com and has been active on the site ever since. If she’s not writing, she can be found re-reading Harry Potter, watching Supernatural, or trying to win the affection of her two cats, Kovu and Rocket.

 

Around the Web

In 27 Days on Amazon

In 27 Days on Goodreads

In 27 Days on JLG

In 27 Days Publisher Page

We Know It Was You by Maggie Thrash

We Know It Was You by Maggie Thrash. October 4, 2016. Simon Pulse, 352 p. ISBN: 9781481462006.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 680.

Twin Peaks meets Pretty Little Liars in acclaimed author Maggie Thrash’s new Strange Truth series.

It’s better to know the truth. At least sometimes.

Halfway through Friday night’s football game, beautiful cheerleader Brittany Montague—dressed as the giant Winship Wildcat mascot—hurls herself off a bridge into Atlanta’s surging Chattahoochee River.

Just like that, she’s gone.

Eight days later, Benny Flax and Virginia Leeds will be the only ones who know why.

Part of Series: Strange Truth

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Rape; Discussion of underage pornography

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2016 (Online))
Grades 10-12. In the middle of a football game at an Atlanta boarding school, the mascot runs off the field and into the woods and jumps off a high bridge into a raging river. Why would Brittany, who seemingly had everything going for her, kill herself? The entirety of the school’s mystery club (dweeby club president Benny and reformed gossip Virginia) set out to solve the puzzle. The misfit duo reveal a twisty and twisted mystery where everything—the motive, the method, even the victim—is not what (or who) it appears to be. Encompassing the innocent antics (an embarrassing pep rally dance) and troubling realities (sexual predation) of the potential high-school experience, and marked by a dark, biting sense of humor, this first novel by the author of the graphic memoir Honor Girl (2015) will be popular with new adult and older teen readers; however, selectors should know that some problematic stereotyping detracts from what is otherwise an engagingly salacious whodunit.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2016)
An elite Atlanta prep school harbors shocking and deadly secrets. At Winship Academy, the Mystery Club has only two members: Benny, one of the only Jewish students in the entire school, and gossipmongering Virginia, a boarder in the school’s crumbling dorms. When popular, blonde Brittany plummets off a bridge, the Mystery Club is on the case. What they discover, however, is a disquieting web of murder, obsession, and sex crimes. Rape and child pornography are breezily discussed and seem to be given almost no gravitas; the perpetrator of the rape and murder faces no punishment, even after Benny and Virginia deduce who did it. Benny concludes, “What the world needed more than justice was truth” instead of reporting it to the authorities. Even more frustratingly, among the nearly all-white student body, the only people who commit crimes in this book are people of color. It will be hard for readers to find anyone to latch onto, as the characters are almost uniformly repellent, including Benny and Virginia. Their ability to shrug off the seriousness of the crimes they investigate in order to solve them seems positively sociopathic. The mystery itself is implausible, and that failing combines with the careless treatment of victims and loathsome characterizations to create an offering that’s both repugnant and infuriating. Don’t just skip this, run from it. (Mystery. 13 & up)

About the Author

Maggie Thrash grew up in the south. She is the author of the graphic memoir, Honor Girl, and the YA mystery We Know It Was You. Her short stories and non-fiction articles can be found on Rookie, an online magazine. She attended Hampshire College and the Sewanee School of Letters. She now lives in Delaware.

Her website is http://www.maggiethrash.com.

Around the Web

We Know It Was You on Amazon

We Know It Was You on Goodreads

We Know It Was You on JLG

We Know It Was You Publisher Page