Although we’re not even a third of the way through 2015, I’ve still managed to find a theme in YA novels this year: suicide.
I just finished Gayle Forman’s new book called I Was Here, and it centered on Cody, who found out that her best friend, Meg, committed suicide. The plot of the book is Cody investigating what led to Meg’s suicide. Forman found the inspiration for Meg’s character while interviewing people for an article that she was writing years ago. The person in particular that inspired Meg was a 19 year-old girl named Suzy who also committed suicide.
What Suzy & Meg both had in common is that they both suffered from depression. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, studies have consistently suggested that the overwhelming majority of people who take their own lives—90 percent or more—had a mental disorder at the time of their deaths. Among people who die by suicide, the most common disorder is depression, though bipolar disorder and substance abuse are also risk factors. Often, these illnesses are undiagnosed or untreated at the time of death. These statistics are important because so many people who suffer want to talk to someone, but they’re afraid that no one will understand what they’re going through. They feel alone, but they’re not.
As a people, we need to start a worldwide conversation about depression and other mental disorders. Maybe this conversation will prevent some suicides from occurring. The other titles that I’ve seen with similar themes to I Was Here are Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff and My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga. Playlist for the Dead is similar to I Was Here because the protagonist in this novel is also trying to figure out why their best friend committed suicide. My Heart and Other Black Holes is a little different in that the protagonist is grappling with the decision of whether or not to commit suicide.
It’s good that more novels are being published about these controversial topics, because it starts the conversation that is much needed about depression and suicide. It also puts readers into the mind of someone who has been in this position and helps readers to have a better understanding of what they’re going through. I Was Here is a good yet uncomfortable read, but I think that it’s also an important read because it made me more aware of these topics than I was before. If you or someone you know has had thoughts of suicide visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s website or call their number: 1-800-273-8255.