Genre: YA Contemporary
Format read: audiobook
Content Warnings: mental illness/suicidal ideation (triggering)
Rep: POC (Turkish), mental illness
**This review contains spoilers**
Okay, I’m just going to lay it out this: In this book, 2 depressed teenagers make a suicide pact because they both want to die, but are scared to do it alone.
I knew this book dealt with mental health, but that’s basically all I knew about it going in.
Aysel’s father ruined her life when he got arrested for murder two years ago. Now her entire Kentucky town hates her for what he did.
Even more, Aysel hates herself. Her father suffered from mental illness (it’s implied to possibly be bipolar disorder, but ever specified; he was undiagnosed until his arrest), and Aysel feels herself capable of the same erratic and violent behavior. With no future ahead of her she determines to end her life before anyone can get hurt. Ignored by her mother and her step family, friendless, she feels the world is better off without her.
Online, she meets Roman, a boy her age from the next town. The two of them set a date for the act. Roman holds his cards close to his chest, unwilling to divulge much of his life or why he wants to die so badly. But in order for their plan to work, the two of them need to convince his mother that he’s “better,” reaching out and making friends so he’ll be able to get out of the house when the time comes.
And that’s all I’m willing to write about the plot. As someone who has struggled with depression for most of her life, and long periods of suicidal thoughts and self harm, this book was triggering to read. At times, I thought the rep was really good–depression has manifested differently for each of them; sometimes as sadness, lethargy, numbness, or anger. No one ever judged their sadness or deemed it unworthy.
BUT. My problem comes about 3/4 of the way through the book. And this is where the spoilers start.
As their partnership turns into friendship, Aysel starts to fall for Roman. When she finally realizes this, suddenly she wants to live again. All of a sudden she realizes her family has been reaching out to her the whole time. She signs up for a science program at the encouragement of her teacher.
She doesn’t reach out and meet new friends, or form tighter bonds with her family. Her annoying sister is still super annoying and rude. She has one heart-to-heart with her mother that somehow fixes all the tension and distance that has been between them since Aysel was a year old and her mom walked out and remarried. Aysel becomes convinced she can use her love to save Roman’s life.
This is a prime example of a character being “saved” by “twue rrove.”
I hate it when this happens in fiction. This is not how depression works. It’s not how love works, either. Yes, it’s important to feel loved. To have connections. But it doesn’t suddenly fix everything or make depression go away overnight. While I did like Aysel and Roman as a couple, the whole situation just pissed me off.
Up to that point, I would say the book had good rep for mental health, but the ending means I can’t rate this book higher or recommend it for those suffering from depression.
As for the Turkish rep…Aysel is 1st generation Turkish-American. Her father was a murderer, and her mom walked out and has done everything she can to distance herself from her roots. The only thing recognizeably Turkish about Aysel and her upbringing is her name.
Realistic? Yeah. I know there are a lot of people who have come to the US with the intention of shedding their past wholesale. But is this good rep? As a white woman born to a family that has largely been in the US since the 1600s, I’m not the one to make that call. If you’ve read this book, let me know your thoughts in the comments.