Tag Archives: self-harm

The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon

The Burn Journals

“The only problem with seeing people you know is that they know you.”
-Brent

This is my second attempt at reviewing this book, so hopefully it doesn’t get deleted like the last one. The Burn Journals is a true memoir of Brent Runyon, who doused himself in gasoline and lit a match when he was only fourteen. He spent almost a year in treatment for his injuries and depression, and over this time learns to accept himself.

The thing I really love about this book is that you can tell he wrote it straight out of his fourteen-year-old mind. The language he uses, his sentence structure, everything is an indicator that he is not at all an adult yet. It isn’t told in the “this happened to me” way; it’s told in the present tense, to emphasize his youth. Even his thoughts and actions point toward childhood, and I think it’s brilliant. Also, the things Brent Runyon included in the story that he could have easily removed to save himself embarrassment are the greatest parts of the book, since it shows you how real everything was.

The Burn Journals is definitely a painful and depressing story, and its subject matter of attempted suicide and recovery is very strong. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, even those who are considering suicide. Actually, I think it’s the perfect book for someone who struggles with depression or suicidal behavior, because it shows the repercussions suicide has on everyone around you, and that everyone can get better with proper treatment and time.

Sorry it took me a while to get this review up, but I should have another one either today or tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

-J

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Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

Impulse

“Love means holding on to someone just as hard as you can because if you don’t, one blink and they might disappear forever.”
-Tony

Sometimes life just gets too hard. Sometimes everything piles up until it feels like you’ve been left with one option: to end it all. That’s what Conner, Tony, and Vanessa thought, at least– but after failing at each of their suicide attempts, they end up in Aspen Springs for recovery. Now they’ve been given a second chance at life… Will they take it or opt out once again?

I know I start a lot of reviews like this, but I really love this book. The re-read for this review was probably the third or fourth, and I never get sick of it. Although I’m in love with all of Ellen Hopkins’s books, this one is definitely my favorite. It’s the first I ever read by her and what made me fall in love with her writing style and writing, period. It’s a little strange to read at first, but if you give it a chance you’ll adapt quickly and end up loving her too.

As I’ve said in previous reviews, books are always more exciting with multiple narrators. This adds to my love for this book, but I don’t think that is the main reason I like it so much. I’ve always been really into books about mental hospital/group home sort of things, as you may know by my numerous reviews about the subject, and the entire book is about this. Plus, it deals with some really important issues and “taboos,” in such a way that I strongly believe everyone should read this book at least once– especially for those who judge by reputation or first impressions, this book should be a real eye-opener.

And, like I say about all of Ellen Hopkins’s books, it’s powerful. I cry just as much now as I did the first time I read it. It really changed my opinion and views on certain things, but I won’t talk about that… spoilers and all.

What I will talk about before I go, though, is the sequel, Perfect. I don’t own it, I haven’t read it, and I haven’t seen it in any bookstores yet, but I really want to read it. From what I’ve heard, it’s three completely different narrators– two of which I remember as Cara, Conner’s twin sister, and Kendra, Conner’s ex-girlfriend who made a brief appearance in Impulse, but I don’t remember the other at all. I think it sounds like it’ll be incredible, and as soon as I find and read it, you’ll be the first to know.

Once again, I forgot to write this review, so the review for the book I’m about halfway done with now (a big surprise, I bet, but I will say it’s a classic) will most likely be up tomorrow. Thanks for reading, and see you then!

-J

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It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

It's Kind of a Funny Story

“It’s so hard to talk when you want to kill yourself. That’s above and beyond everything else, and it’s not a mental complaint– it’s a physical thing, like it’s physically hard to open your mouth and make the words come out. They don’t come out smooth and in conjunction with your brain the way normal people’s words do; they come out in chunks as if from a crushed-ice dispenser; you stumble on them as they gather behind your lower lip. So you just keep quiet.”
-Craig

After nearly committing suicide one night, depressed teenager Craig Gilner decides to check himself into the hospital. He is given a few days to stay in the adult psychiatric ward, where he meets a schizophrenic, some drug addicts, and a girl who scarred her face with scissors. (I don’t want to say too much else for fear of spoiling anything, so I’ll just awkwardly stop this summary here.)

Once again, I’ve forgotten to write a review. It’s been a few days since I’ve finished this incredible book, but I can still recall it rather well. No matter how messed up he is, Craig is relatable to everyone in some way. His thoughts and opinions generally make sense, even if they’re a little far-fetched. He’s a really good guy, despite the bad decisions he may make, and I think we can all relate to that somehow.

It’s rare that I truly find a book funny. Sure, I have a sense of humor, but finding an actual laugh-out-loud-funny is an unusual thing for me. This book was one of the few exceptions so far. Similar to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, It’s Kind of a Funny Story pokes fun at the mentality of the people in the ward without being offensive or rude, and I admire Ned Vizzini and Ken Kesey for being able to do that.

Now, just today I found out that this book has a film adaption. How I didn’t know beats me, especially because the cast includes people like Zach Galifinakis, Jim Gaffigan, and Emma Roberts. As of now, all I know is I need to see this movie.

And since I took so long for this review, the next review will most likely be up tomorrow. One more book to go and I’ll be book-hunting again, so please leave me some recommendations! 🙂

-J

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Identical by Ellen Hopkins

Identical

“I will probably die before he does. Dying, for Daddy, would be the ultimate defeat. But death doesn’t scare me. To know exactly when I might expect it, up close and in my face, would actually be a comfort. Because to tell the truth, most of the time dying seems pretty much like my only means of escape.”
-Kaeleigh

Identical twins Kaeleigh and Raeanne may seem the same on the outside, but they lead completely different lives. Raeanne uses drugs, sex, and purging to settle her inner demons, while Kaeleigh turns to bingeing, drinking, and self-harm. Raeanne has relationships with numerous guys, while Kaeleigh struggles to keep one. Despite their differences, their explanations are the same: their father sexually abuses Kaeleigh consistently, while Raeanne is forced to keep quiet and stay away. But after years of enduring this torture, it comes to be too much for either twin to handle alone– but who will step up and release the other?

One word can easily describe this entire 560+ page book: powerful. It’s not for the faint of heart, and definitely don’t read it if you don’t expect to cry in the near future. And I’m not just referring to the twins’ lives– even some of the minor characters’ backstories are tear-inducing. There isn’t much else to say; Identical is one of those beautiful-in-a-sick-way novels that really makes you appreciate everything you take for granted.

Without revealing any spoilers (which is the absolute last thing I want to do, considering the huge one in this book), I think the ending of the novel is definitely a topic of discussion. It packs a punch, no doubt about that, and may even require a second read-through for you to fully get your head around. Once again, no spoilers, but I have to compare it to The Prestige. It was the first psychological thriller/twist-ending movie I’d seen since I watched The Sixth Sense at a young age, and to this day it has stuck with me and has become one of my all-time favorite movies. That’s exactly how Identical was for me: I think it’s safe to say the ending of this book was unlike any other I’ve read, and I need to find more like it.

Okay, I think that’s enough gushing in one day. I’ll have another review for you guys in a few days, and most likely it’ll be a big change from the reviews I’ve recently posted. This is a big year for books for me, and I hope you’re all as excited as I am. Have a great Labor Day weekend, and I’ll see you soon!

-J

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Crash Into Me by Albert Borris

Crash Into Me

“Self-esteem is overrated. Anyone will think they color great if enough people tell them. Artificial praise. Down inside, compliments like that are hollow… Real self-worth comes from mastery, from getting good at something. It doesn’t matter what. Then you don’t have to worry about empty compliments. You don’t worry about what other people think. You have self-respect.”
-Mr. Clark

Frank, Audrey, Owen, and Jin-Ae are four suicidal teenagers with one common goal: a cross-country road trip to visit celebrity suicide sites ending in Death Valley, California, where they will kill themselves together. They spend the rest of their time completing bucket list items and sharing secrets, knowing that death is final and this is their only chance to finish what they’ve started. But will time during the road trip change their minds before they reach their final destination?

This is and always will be one of my favorite books, for a few reasons. One, the suspense. You just don’t know what will happen at the end. Everything is so completely unpredictable, even when you think you know exactly what’s going on. Two, the awesome subject matter. I’ve always been attracted to books about suicide (I’m not obsessed with death or anything, I promise), and this is a perfect choice for someone like me. Sad? Of course it is. But not as sad as you’d think, and it’s not an all-out tear fest. It’s just like any other book, just with a much darker subject matter.

And finally, number three deserves its own paragraph. This is one of those few books where I like all of the main and supporting characters. Owen, the narrator and main character of the story, is quiet and easily lovable boy you wish you knew in real life. He seems considerably more vulnerable compared to the other characters. Frank, the other male of the group, is mainly described as an awkward-looking “jock” who really likes beer and hates his father. Jin-Ae is the only gay member of the group, and also a cutter with a love for poetry. Audrey, the youngest member of the group, is an extremely outspoken Nirvana fanatic with a buzz cut and a large scar across her forehead. Despite their total oppositeness, together they make one awesome pack.

I’m kind of rambling now, but you get the main idea. As a whole, the book is great, and I believe everyone should take the time to read it at least once in their lifetime. This book is very underrated, so if you do read it or have read it before, please let me know what you think of it. (I haven’t found one person yet who has read it, and everyone I try to convince thinks it looks too depressing.) Have a great night, and happy June! 🙂

-J

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Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wintergirls

“I could say I’m excited, but that would be a lie. The number doesn’t matter. If I got down to 070.00, I’d want to be 065.00. If I weighed 010.00, I wouldn’t be happy until I got down to 005.00. The only number that would ever be enough is 0.”
-Lia

When best friends Lia and Cassie begin a contest to see who can be the skinniest, everything goes downhill. After not speaking to each other for months, Lia discovers that her best friend has died. Now alone, Lia struggles to recovver from Cassie’s death and her ongoing anorexia before she disappears.

Although I really dislike the title, Wintergirls is one of those incredible heartbreaking books that you can’t help but read more than once. The story is extremely depressing, as is Lia’s eating disorder and self-harm, but in a way it’s also sort of inspiring.

I know this is a very, very short review, but there isn’t a whole lot to say. This is the most accurate portrayal of an eating disorder that I’ve found so far, along with numerous other struggles, so this should be your number one choice if you’re looking for a story about dealing with an eating disorder. Other than that, this is just an all-around good book and I believe it should be read by absolutely everyone. People need to understand the difficulties that others go through, and this would definitely show them.

-J

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Aimee by Mary Beth Miller

Aimee

“I think they do it when they can no longer find a reason to keep going. When nothing in heir lives is good enough to balance out the bad. And they do it when they no longer have the courage to carry on past some recent painful experience. They commit what is, in the end, a desperate, final call for help, that is hopefully heard in time by someone else.”
-Marge

Even though Zoe has been cleared, nearly everyone she knows still believes that she killed her best friend, or at the least, helped her commit suicide. Aimee tells of Zoe’s life before, after, and during this horrible incident, and how she slowly found the strength to recover.

The writing style of this book was very… unusual. It somewhat reminded me of a Quentin Tarantino movie, because of how much it jumped around from past to present. Also, the main character/narrator, Zoe, didn’t even have her name mentioned until about ten pages from the very end of the book. It’s pretty odd to read a book where you don’t even know the main character’s name.

There’s only one real complaint I have about this book. Before Aimee’s death, she and Zoe would always hang out with a few other kids named Chard, Kyle, Jason, and Kates. After Aimee’s death, Zoe isn’t allowed to see them anymore, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be mentioned. The only one who keeps in contact with her afterwards is Chard. Zoe barely mentions the rest of them, even in her flashbacks, so we know next to nothing about her other friends. It’s as if they didn’t exist. Sorry, Mary Beth Miller, but if you’re going to introduce some characters, at least give us a little bit of reason. On the other hand, the rest of the characters’ development was great. Literally every character has something going wrong in their lives, and it’s really interesting.

Although excessively long, Aimee is an overall good book. It’s very emotional and can be triggering at points, so I’d advise you only to read it if you’re sure you can handle it.

-J

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After by Amy Efaw

After

“She can paint a pretty picture, but this story has a twist. The paintbrush is a razor, and the canvas is her wrist.”
-Karma

Devon Davenport is a sophmore in high school who attempted to murder her newborn daughter immediately after giving birth. After is her story of life in a juvenille detention center while awaiting her trial, and the trial itself. Suspenseful, surprising, and all-around incredible, After is definitely a book you won’t want to miss out on.

Another of my favorites. This book is amazing, and now I can see why it’s so popular in the YA fiction world. No matter how crazy it gets, the characters are occasionally relatable in some way. No matter how much you are prejudiced about the characters, you’ll end up liking them at least a little bit.

Once again, this is one of those books where I can’t say too much due to spoilers. But this book is awesome, and I advise you to go read it as soon as possible.

-J

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Willow by Julia Hoban

Willow

“Oh, Willow, what if you had died that night too?”
-David Randall

Seven months ago, Willow was involved in a car accident that killed both of her parents. Believing the event to be her fault, Willow has been cutting herself to relieve the pain of losing them. Then she meets Guy, a boy at her new school that wants to help her through her struggles. But can he save her before she ends up hurting herself worse than she intends to?

This book is so real. Real struggles, real feelings, real things that actually do happen. I could understand everything that every character was going through, and it was incredible. Willow’s brother, David, was definitely my favorite character (I have no idea why, he just seemed pretty cool to me), and that was one of the main things I loved about this book: the author didn’t kill my favorite character like every other author does with every other book I read. (I may post a rant about this eventually, because it happens so often.)

The only thing that I think would’ve made this book better is if it were written in first person, from Willow’s point of view. I feel like it would help us get to know Willow better, to better understand everything she’s going through and how she feels about different people. Don’t get me wrong, Julia Hoban did a great job explaining all of Willow’s feelings and motives and everything; I just think it would be even better if it was written in first person.

I’d best compare this book to a mixture of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls. In If I Stay, Mia is involved in a car accident that lands her in the hospital, but kills her parents. In Wintergirls, Lia struggles with self-harm after her best friend’s death. These two books mixed together is a perfect description of Willow, and if you read and enjoyed either of these books, I suggest you read Willow as well. (Alternatively, if you’ve read Willow, definitely check out these other books. You won’t be disappointed.)

-J

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Get Well Soon by Julie Halpern

Get Well Soon

“I hardly think it wise to put the idea of flying into the heads of impressionable teenagers who are already battling the challenges of lunacy.”
-Anna Bloom

It’s so difficult to write a review of a book with the kind of storyline that giving away tiny details could ruin the entire plot. So, all I’ll say is that the main character, Anna Bloom, is in a mental hospital, trying to make sense of everything and deal with the problems from both her old and new lives.

At first, I thought this would be just another mental hospital story. I still liked it; it was just kind of a “what else is new?” book. But at a certain point, where Anna notices something different about one of the patients (that’s the best I can do, sorry!), I started to get really into it. I wanted to know everything about this kid. The suspense was nearly killing me, especially because nothing regarding it is revealed until almost the end of the book. I read half the book in one sitting, I was so desperate to know. And when the truth came out, I was impressed. The signs were subtle but there, and I was a little surprised I didn’t pick up on it sooner.

Although I liked most of the characters (which doesn’t happen often), I have to say my favorite is Matt O. I don’t know what it is about him, but I just want to be friends with this kid. It was a little weird how many shared interests Anna and I had, too. (Imagine reading a book while listening to a band you really like and wearing one of your favorite shirts and pair of shoes. Now, imagine the narrator start talking about that band, describing your shirt to you, and mentioning the shoes you’re wearing. Then, a while later, the narrator mentions that she really likes to do one of your favorite passtimes. Wouldn’t you freak out too?)

And, a quick note before I leave: Since tomorrow is my birthday, I don’t know if I’ll get around to reading or not. If I do, great; if I don’t, you guys will probably have to wait an extra day until I post again. And since I’m basing what book I’m reading next over whether I get to read tomorrow, that may mean waiting up to four or five days for another review. 😦

Have a great weekend, guys. See you later!

-J

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