The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork
Published by Scholastic Inc. on January 26th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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When Vicky Cruz wakes up in the Lakeview Hospital Mental Disorders ward, she knows one thing: After her suicide attempt, she shouldn't be alive. But then she meets Mona, the live wire; Gabriel, the saint; E.M., always angry; and Dr. Desai, a quiet force. With stories and honesty, kindness and hard work, they push her to reconsider her life before Lakeview, and offer her an acceptance she's never had. But Vicky's newfound peace is as fragile as the roses that grow around the hospital. And when a crisis forces the group to split up, sending Vick back to the life that drove her to suicide, she must try to find her own courage and strength. She may not have them. She doesn't know. Inspired in part by the author's own experience with depression, The Memory of Light is the rare young adult novel that focuses not on the events leading up to a suicide attempt, but the recovery from one -- about living when life doesn't seem worth it, and how we go on anyway.
Somewhere in me I probably had the strength to not kill myself. But I was tired of looking for strength. Tired of being strong. That’s what I did to make it through… each day, go through the motions of being strong. I put on strong every morning. I’m sick of faking strong.
I don’t think a book has so personally affected me since I read This Song Will Save Your Life. This is one of those stories that is so raw and honest, so completely true, so completely unwilling to sell the neatly wrapped-up, romanticized version of mental illness and suicide that we see in books like All the Bright Places.
It truly saddens me that this book will probably remain comparatively unread when every single person, whether they have struggled with depression or not, should read it.
I’m always amazed how much we still don’t really understand depression. I read books like Thirteen Reasons Why and see reviewers saying things like “she doesn’t seem realistically suicidal” or “I’m sorry, but no one kills themselves because _____”.
Because reasons. People want them. Not only that, they also want good reasons. Why did you try to kill yourself? What’s so bad about your life that you hate it so much? But real life just isn’t like that.
While I’m sure they do exist somewhere, I have never met, known, heard about, or read about anyone who attempted suicide for a clear-cut reason. If only it was just as simple as my mother died. I’m being abused. My partner cheated on me. It isn’t usually like that.
Depression doesn’t need reasons because it’s an illness that finds hopelessness and worthlessness in everything. It’s been described as a thick fog, as wading through sludge, as a crushing weight. It’s small things that build into an overwhelming sense of self-loathing. Depression can make you feel sad or angry or scared, but most of the time – it just makes you feel so damn tired. Tired of trying to be strong and happy. Tired of smiling and pretending.
The Memory of Light captures all of that and more. Vicky’s story is both a light in the darkness for teens suffering from depression and a shock of hard realism, the ending offering both hope and a punch to the gut.
I read this book feeling like the author knew exactly what he was talking about and so the author’s note at the end came as no surprise. This was written by someone who truly understands the illness and all the emotions and experiences that go with it. It’s a diverse book, filled with many different kinds of people, skin colours and personalities. It will make you angry, and sad, and hopeful.
I can’t stop thinking about it.
I'm Emily May - a twenty-something year old book blogger from the North of England. Currently going wherever the wind or the storyline takes me. Find me on Goodreads
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