Sunday, February 7, 2010

By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead.....

Daelyn Rice has tried several times to kill herself. Unsuccessfully. But this time, she plans to succeed. She wants to be a "completer". So she logs on to Through-the-Light, a website she accidentally stumbled upon. Unknown to her parents, she creates an account and has 23 days to self-terminate. Along the way she meets others who have similar intentions and we follow her as she researches potential ways to kill herself.
So begins the story of the final days of Daelyn which she counts down, one by one. During these days we learn that Daelyn was bullied mercilessly for being fat. She suffered through fat camp, Girl Guides and other diastrous situations. According to her, almost every aspect of her life has been a failure and it's time to check-out, permanently. Her last attempt at suicide, was unsuccessful and left her with a damaged esophagus and vocal cords. She wears a neck brace and can't speak as she heals from this latest attempt.
But Daelyn doesn't count on meeting Santana, a boy she soon learns is dying from Hodgkins lymphoma. And so author Julie Anne Peters sets up an interesting contrast; a girl who desperately wants to die meeting a boy fighting to stay alive and for whom life is precious, even if it isn't great. Santana is quirky, kind and likes Daelyn. In his own way he seems to understand Daelyn. Santana is an endearing lovable character who I was able to identify with. Although it's not apparent to him, he gradually seems to be reaching into Daelyn's soul and stirring the hope she so desperately needs.

IN the end, he makes Daelyn an offer that might change the course of her life. She finally has to make the decision to trust one last time, to take a risk or to give up and end it all.

By the time you read this, I'll be dead, is dark and intense. You want Daelyn to open up, to try one more time to make things work out. I felt angry with her that she didn't fight back more and near the end of the book, Daelyn herself seems to be coming to some sort of recognition of this. Her parents, although well meaning, see clueless and disengaged from her inner life. Their relationship with their only child seems superficial and dysfunctional.

An outstanding, riveting treatment of a difficult topic for teens. This book considers many aspects of issues that are all too common for todays teens:the effects of bullying, suicide, and teen depression. Highly recommended.

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