Sometimes you don’t wake up. But if you happen to, you know things will never be the same.
Three lives, three different paths to the same destination: Aspen Springs, a psychiatric hospital for those who have attempted the ultimate act — suicide.
Vanessa is beautiful and smart, but her secrets keep her answering the call of the blade.
Tony, after suffering a painful childhood, can only find peace through pills.
And Conner, outwardly, has the perfect life. But dig a little deeper and find a boy who is in constant battle with his parents, his life, himself.
In one instant each of these young people decided enough was enough. They grabbed the blade, the bottle, the gun — and tried to end it all. Now they have a second chance, and just maybe, with each other’s help, they can find their way to a better life — but only if they’re strong and can fight the demons that brought them here in the first place.
Rating: 3 Stars
I’ve known of Ellen Hopkins’ books for a long time, but for the most part I stayed away from them because I wasn’t sure how I would like her style of writing. If you don’t know, all of her books are written in verse, which can take some getting used to if you’re not accustomed to it. When one of the challenges for the #DAReadathon said to pick a book about a subject close to us, I thought that it might be time to try one of Hopkins’ books out.
This novel follows the story of three teens that, after failed suicide attempts, are sent to a mental health facility: Tony, whose escape was pills; Conner, who shot himself in the chest; and Vanessa, a cutter that suffers from bipolar disorder.
The stories of each character were relatively easy to follow, though the format made it slightly difficult to keep track of the secrets they were keeping both from me as the reader and from those around them. I’m glad that their separate sections were labeled with their names because if they weren’t, I’m afraid I wouldn’t have been able to tell them apart. The voices were too similar. Any one of them could have been the other: Vanessa the pill junkie, Tony the cutter, etc.
Something I wasn’t sure of during the course of the book and I’m not sure of after it ended was Tony’s struggle with his sexuality. During most of the book I was under the impression that he was gay. He’s introduced as a gay character, after all. Then Vanessa arrives at the mental health ward and he starts to develop feelings for her. This confuses him, though I thought that perhaps he was just learning to accept that he was bisexual.
Tony grew up largely in juvenile detention, surrounded by other boys, and he was raped and abused before that. It’s these events that were presented as events that might explain why he thought he was gay. That is when I started feeling like something was wrong. Once this thought enters his head, it felt like he thought there was only one way to be: either gay or straight. Conner asks him if he’s bisexual once and it is never brought up again.
By the end of the novel, Tony and Vanessa are very cozy and are talking about what their lives will be like after they get out of the hospital. That situation felt weird as it was because I don’t believe that they should have trusted their feelings in that setting to begin with, but even if they did, why is it so impossible to believe that Tony could be bi? I felt like that option was erased and it made my uncomfortable. Having never read any of Hopkins’ books before, I don’t know what her handle is on LGBT situations, but this one didn’t feel like it was handled right.
Aside from that issue, I think the characters and their stories felt unfinished by the end, with the exception of one which I will not mention as it is a big spoiler. I understand that not all stories can be wrapped up neatly and at first thought this wasn’t too bad, but when I think about where these characters were when they entered the story and where they are now at the end, I’m not sure that anything really changed for them. There’s a lot more road for them to travel and I think that we should have been able to see more of it on the page to make it a satisfactory story.
I’ll give Hopkins’ books another try to see where they lead and what her handling of other situations are. As for how this one related to my own experience, I saw in Vanessa a lot of truth and that made me sad. It was believable in the way that she went through things and the dependency that she had on her coping mechanism. I’m glad she seemed to have more support by the end than she felt she did at the beginning because hope is all you have sometimes, even if someone else needs to have it for you.
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