Date Published: 2008
Book Author: Michael Thomas Ford
Summary reviewed by:
Bachelor of Arts (BA), University Of California, Santa Barbara 2019
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"Suicide Notes" by Michael Thomas Ford is a riveting exploration of the human psyche that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Set in the sterile confines of a psychiatric ward, this tale is a rollercoaster ride through the mind of a 15-year-old boy named Jeff. Waking up in a mental institute after a suicide attempt, Jeff insists he's not like the others. He's not "crazy." He's just a normal kid who made a spur-of-the-moment decision. But as the story unfolds over forty-five days, each day a chapter in the novel, we delve deeper into the reasons that landed him in this situation.
Jeff's journey is a captivating blend of wit, dark humor, and stark reality. He's a character who's easy to relate to, with his expansive knowledge of psychological techniques and his stubborn insistence that he's perfectly fine. But as he interacts with the other patients and the staff, including the quirky Doctor "Cat Poop" and the enigmatic Sadie, he begins to realize that he might need help after all.
The book's unique diary format gives us an intimate look into Jeff's thought process, revealing his intelligence, his insecurities, and his struggle to understand himself. But be warned, this book doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of life, including graphic depictions of sexual activity among minors.
Spoilers (click here to reveal spoilers)
In a shocking twist, Jeff comes to terms with his sexuality. The realization that he's gay, triggered by his interactions with another patient, Rankin, is a significant turning point in the story. This revelation, coupled with the tragic death of his friend Sadie, forces Jeff to confront his issues head-on. He finally understands that his suicide attempt was a mistake, a desperate cry for help rather than a solution. The book ends on a hopeful note, with Jeff choosing to face his problems rather than running away from them.
Jeff: A witty, sarcastic 15-year-old boy who struggles with his identity and sexuality. His denial about his mental health issues and his stubborn insistence on being “normal” are challenged throughout his stay in the psychiatric ward.
Sadie: A fellow patient in the ward who becomes Jeff’s confidante. Her strength and humor mask her own struggles, and her tragic end serves as a catalyst for Jeff’s self-realization.
Dr. Katzrupus (“Cat Poop”): The patient psychiatrist who patiently works with Jeff, helping him to confront his issues despite Jeff’s initial resistance.
Rankin: A bold, assertive patient who makes advances towards Jeff. His interactions with Jeff lead to Jeff’s acceptance of his homosexuality.
Self-acceptance: Jeff’s journey to accept his sexuality is a central theme in the book. His interactions with Rankin and the tragic death of Sadie force him to confront his denial and accept his identity.
Mental Health: The book explores the stigma associated with mental health issues and the importance of seeking help. Jeff’s initial denial about his mental health issues and his eventual acceptance highlight the importance of acknowledging and addressing mental health problems.
Friendship: The bonds Jeff forms with the other patients, particularly Sadie, play a crucial role in his journey. These friendships provide him with support and understanding, helping him navigate his struggles.
Identity: The struggle with identity, particularly sexual identity, is a key theme. Jeff’s struggle to accept his homosexuality and the impact of societal norms on his self-perception are explored in depth.