Thursday, March 3, 2016

Book Review: I Was Here

This year I am trying to read many best selling YA novels. For the most part, these are not Christian books, but they are what captivates today’s teen reader. 

My goal as an author is to write equally captivating books that give hope and real answers. Not pat answers. Not cardboard answers. Book that have real characters with real struggles. Not one dimensional characters.

I’ve noticed that many of the books I am reading have to do with death. I Was Here is no exception. Like All the Bright Places and  13 Reasons Why, it was about suicide.
Here’s Amazon’s summary of it:
When her best friend, Meg, commits suicide by drinking a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how did she miss the signs of Meg's depression? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, and some secrets of his own. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

Since they covered the highlights, I’m going to jump in with what I think are the good and bad points of the book.
The good points:
  • The book tackles the tough topics of depression and suicide
  • The characters are well developed
  • Cody and Ben go to church and the book includes the sermon

My problems with the book:
  • A megagob of swearing including the f-word
  • Sex between two teens and references to other times
  • No hope of an afterlife is given other than someone saying that if there was an afterlife and you didn’t like it, you could just kill yourself again

I think the Christian market is sadly lacking in good books that deal with real issues. Ones that captivate the readers the way this one and others in the secular market do. This blog is for teens, but I have authors of YA fiction who read it, so my challenge to you is to fill in the gaps in Christian fiction.

Teen suicide is a major problem, the third leading cause of death for youth ages 15-24. And it’s estimated that for every successful suicide attempt, there are 15 failed attempts.

Kid’s Health has a good article on teen suicide HERE
I guess my question is, why are so many teens attempting to end their lives? The article lists these factors:
Young people with mental health problems — such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or insomnia — are at higher risk for suicidal thoughts. Teens going through major life changes (parents' divorce, moving, a parent leaving home due to military service or parental separation, financial changes) and those who are victims of bullying are at greater risk of suicidal thoughts.
Factors that increase the risk of suicide among teens include:
· a psychological disorder, especially depression, bipolar disorder, and alcohol and drug use (in fact, about 95% of people who die by suicide have a psychological disorder at the time of death)
·  feelings of distress, irritability, or agitation
· feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness that often accompany depression
· a previous suicide attempt
· a family history of depression or suicide
· emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
· lack of a support network, poor relationships with parents or peers, and feelings of social isolation
· dealing with bisexuality or homosexuality in an unsupportive family or community or hostile school environment

That being the case, it sounds like we need to get some programs in place for teens and make counseling more easily accessible.
I think we also need more books about teens who look at the odds and the things stacked against them, struggle with it , and then find positive—and realistic—solutions.

Can anyone suggest books like that?

Teens--what do you look for in a book? What new book would you like to see written? What subjects should Christian authors write about?


  1. You've forgotten one reason why teens and adults die by suicide, the SSRI medications which give the patient suicidal thoughts. I know because this happened to my son. It's tragic and I hope to one day to write a teen book about suicide loss which can give hope.

    1. So sorry for your loss, Jean!

    2. There are lots of books in our school library about suicide, bipolar, cancer and stuff. I would like to read one that gave some answers about what happens after you die because none of them say that. The book characters mostly don't believe there is anything after death.

  2. I am not familiar with them, and that is very sad. I hope you will write that book and that it will reach many teens searching for answers.

    1. When I researched SSRI drugs while developing my male character for my YA novel, a 20 year old young man with PTSD from childhood trauma and combat experience, I was shocked! The side affects of these drugs coupled with the "benzos" often prescribed with them are horrific, not to mention cold turkey withdrawal is comparable to that of other addictive illegal drugs. It's tragic but so many times the quick fix where what these people really need is loving support and true Christian counseling. They need to know they're not alone, especially our youth who are often growing up with no family support or network.

  3. I think this is a much needed topic in Christian YA. The movie To Save a Life (available on DVD) is such a great, atypical Christian movie on this subject. I wish for more books on this and other topics that are meaningful to teens and provide hope without being preachy or condescending.

    1. I am going to check Netlix and Amazon prime for that.

    2. Netflix had it. I put it at the top of my list.

    3. I started it a few weeks ago and got tied up in baby stuff :) It's really good what I've read so far.

    4. The movie started out good but it got pretty preachy about half way. I think it would be good to show but I don't think everyone would really pay attention.

  4. My YA novel Angelhood is a book about teen suicide that offers hope. Like you, I read some of the popular books and was saddened that the endings felt so hopeless. So far, I've gotten a lot of great feedback from teens who have read Angelhood and were positively impacted by it.

    1. That's great! That's my goal. To have a book that actually makes a difference. I have ten non fiction, but my heart is in fiction right now. I have a book at Blink through their open call that is being considered.

  5. If you have a list of Christian books I would like to see it.


  6. Jada, I've written a Christian book about lying, bullying, and staying afloat when a parent is suffering from depression. Just Claire is for tweens/YA and adult readers alike. You may check out Just Claire at Amazon by me, Jean Ann Williams. I hope this helps, because my whole goal in writing Just Claire is to show young readers they are not alone in their struggles. I wish I would have had a book to read like I've written when I was a teen. Here's the tag line: One mother damaged, one family tested, one daughter determined to find her place.

    1. I think bullying is a big problem. Cutting and drinking are big problems too.

  7. Just making sure I receive a followup email when someone comments.