Sunday, February 9, 2014

Book #19: Stairway to Heaven

The first page of this book is filled with great reviews and praise. I try not to read any of it.

 The second page lists the awards this book had won at the time of publication - ten.  Wow.

I try to not think about them or that, I try to let go of the last book (Zoe is still asleep, we can have that talk about Book #18 when the right time comes, I'm strategic like that).
The first page grabs me by the ankle and holds me planted to a sunny spot for most of the day on Sunday. Dishes can wait. Laundry can wait. Watching ice skating can wait.

This book, told in 13 vignettes and two narrators, is haunting, spellbinding, transfixing, sad and beautiful.

Did you like Black Swan, where you weren't quite sure how .... mad?... Natalie Portman was then at the end, and then when you did you saw it was ugly and beautiful and sad?

 Did you like the Sixth Sense where you didn't see something about Bruce Willis then you suddenly did and your stomach hurt?

This book is something like that.  Different but the same.

Piece by piece the narrator seems to be slipping away into the desert of her mind, deciding she has no choice but to kill herself, but before she does she makes a series of tapes on which she explains  13 reasons why she simply had no other choice but die. I'm ruining nothing for you; her suicide is how the book starts.

This is and isn't a mystery.
It it is and isn't about bullying and the cost of not speaking up, of doing nothing. 
It is and isn't a love story. 
It is and isn't the story of rape and survival.

This book successfully combines two narrators whose stories unfold asynchronously. One of the main characters is reading Catcher in the Rye, the same classic that the narrator in Book #18 loved and gave as gifts. Perhaps this isn't too huge of a coincidence considering these books are both fundamentally coming-of-age books where a teenager grapples with tragedy and allows themselves to be changed.

When I finish the last page I feel like I have watched someone drive themselves off a cliff, and I think the author did that on purpose.

I am moved, I am changed, I will learn the lesson this book teaches, and when you read it (you should!)  you will also want to stand up and DO something. You'll see.

I would assign this to a book club of people who wanted to discuss mental illness, allies, advocacy and suicide prevention.

 I would send this book to my Mom (sorry Mom, this book belongs to Cailyn M) and share it with my friends.

 But before all that, I'm lending it to Zoe to read ASAP. It's THAT good.

Before I pick up Book #20, or even decide which book to read next, I have to tackle the dishes, the laundry, the pile of history exams that have been patiently waiting their turn for my attention.