Advertisement

Check It Out: Books provide comfort for YA readers

November 06, 2013|By Mara Cota

Three recently published young adult novels tell stories of teenagers in crisis and their struggle with mental illness: "Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock" by Matthew Quick, "Reality Boy" by A.S. King and "Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets" by Evan Roskos.

These books tell powerful stories. The protagonists grapple with depression, anger and anxiety. They tell their stories in first person, in vivid language and with sometimes raw emotion. Despite their potentially bleak situations, these engaging stories of emotional and mental turmoil are really stories of hope.

In "Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock," the main character is smart and observant, a connoisseur of classic Hollywood movies, with a quick wit and academic brilliance when a subject captures his imagination. But he's a young man swamped by depression and carrying a destructive secret. Sometimes Leonard is frightened by the extreme nature of his emotional shifts: explosive one day and unconcerned the next.

Advertisement

On the morning of his 18th birthday, Leonard decides to get revenge and then to end his own life. "Forgive Me" is the story of this one crucial day. Quick's plotting slowly ratchets up the suspense as we wonder whether Leonard will survive. The book is peppered with footnotes and wry comments that help to relieve the tension of Leonard's story. When the ending arrives, it is the opposite of bleak. While avoiding simplistic resolutions, Quick leaves us with the possibility of better things to come.

Another character in search of a break from his past is Gerald Faust in "Reality Boy." A critically acclaimed author, King has a gift for writing distinct, realistic voices. In "Reality Boy," Gerald is a 17-year-old with major anger issues. A former reality TV star, Gerald is part of a highly dysfunctional family that once appeared on a show called "Network Nanny," where Gerald was presented as the problem child. But the problems in his family run much deeper and involve frightening behavior by his older sister. Twelve years later, Gerald has spent years in anger management therapy, has no friends, and is surviving, instead of living, life.

As the novel unfolds, it becomes harder for Gerald to escape into the soothing fantasy world he's created. He begins to realize that he does have the strength to engage with reality without it destroying him, that the people around him have their own issues, and that he has a right to a happier, saner existence.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles
|
|
|