Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Favorite Book about Suicide

Morbid, right? But this week's book is about suicide, and many YA books (and other books) are, because we - as a society - are talking more about it and related topics (see last week's Bullying is Bad post for another example). So here are some of our favorite examples of the subgenre.


I love this book. I hate that it exists, because it's autobiographical, so it's horrible that all these things happened to Brent Runyon, but I have to admit that I'm really glad he wrote about them, because he wrote it well.

Long story short, Brent Runyon lit himself on fire in a failed suicide attempt and this is the story of his recoveries (physical, mental, and emotional). He has a great sense of humor mixed with serious talk about important subjects.

Because this is easily one of my favorite subgenres, I feel the need to give you a list of runners-up: Girl, Interrupted; Suicide Notes; Impulse; and I could give you a dozen more if we included self-harm (which is different, though related).

Fair warning, there are going to be some spoilers for this book.

So this book, one of my favorites, is about an older sister, Kate, who has cancer, and her younger sister, Anna, is basically perfectly genetically engineered by her parents to be a perfect match for her older sister in ever way.  In a lot of ways, she was meant to be the replacement parts to save her older sister.

Kate needs a kidney to live, and Anna is expected to give up one of hers.  So Anna sues for the right to her body, the right to NOT give her organs to her older sister, to make all of the decisions about her body.

So what does all of this have to do with suicide you might ask?  Well, inevitably it comes out that Anna isn't doing this because she's a big old jerk who wants her sister to die, but because she's actually making the biggest gesture of love to Kate she can... and giving Kate exactly what she asked for.

Kate is tired of the surgeries and the hospitals and the blood draws and never, ever, getting to be a normal girl... ever.  The kidney was her final straw.  So she asked Anna to say no.  To help her die.  To just let her pass on.  It's, essentially, assisted suicide.  Which, really brings up the big ethical question of should it be legal or shouldn't it be?  In the US, it's currently legal in Washington (state), Vermont, New Mexico and Oregon.  In Montana it's not legal, but it's not technically ILLEGAL either, so take that how you will.

The book is incredibly powerful and moving and raises a lot of questions and issues like this one.  Is assisted suicide OK?  Especially in cases where there is absolutely no other way out?  Or how about a case where it seems all but hopeless, and the patient could live, but not a life that's really worth anything?

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