Southbury Teen Review Blog

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month May 28, 2014

iris

Nearly 5 million American children and adolescents suffer from a serious mental illness.  Here is a selection of fiction titles that touch on this subject.

Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler

Things in Delilah Hannaford’s life have a tendency to fall apart.

She used to be a good student, but she can’t seem to keep it together anymore. Her “boyfriend” isn’t much of a boyfriend. And her mother refuses to discuss the fight that divided their family eight years ago. Falling apart, it seems, is a Hannaford tradition.

Over a summer of new friendships, unexpected romance, and moments that test the complex bonds between mothers and daughters, Delilah must face her family’s painful past. Can even her most shattered relationships be pieced together again?

I Will Save You by Matt de la Pena

“Kidd is running from his past and his future. No mom, no dad, and there’s nothing for him at the group home but therapy. He doesn’t belong at the beach where he works either, unless he finds a reason to stay.
   Olivia is blond hair, blue eyes, rich dad. The prettiest girl in Cardiff. She’s hiding something from Kidd—but could they ever be together anyway?
   Devon is mean, mysterious, and driven by a death wish. A best friend and worst enemy. He followed Kidd all the way to the beach and he’s not leaving until he teaches him a few lessons about life. And Olivia.”

Noble Genes by Rune Michaels

It’s tough to measure up to your parents’ expectations. Imagine how much harder it would be if your mother told you that your biological father—whom you’d never met—was a Nobel prize-winning genius? NOBEL GENES is the story of just such a boy. His life consists of a series of halves; his genes are half from a donor bank that featured Nobel winners. After years of testing and tutoring, he only lives up to his mother’s expectations halfway. He spends half his time sharing in his mother’s manic ups and the other half in her depressive downs. And he always has to be half-awake in the middle of the night so that when his mother wakes up and plays with her pills, he can count them and make sure the proper amount are still there before he goes to sleep. 

Perhaps him being a “Nobel son” is a dream. Or a hope. Or a delusion. No matter what it is to his mother, it becomes devastation when he learns that his genius history is a lie. And once the truth is revealed, there is no going back. Even when he thought he discovered the most important truth, in his dreams, he finds one answer that he never imagined. Does it matter who you come from? Or are we all just made from dust?”

OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

“In this raw and relatable romance, Bea learns that some things just can’t be controlled.

When Bea meets Beck, she knows instantly that he’s her kind of crazy. Sweet, strong, kinda-messed-up Beck understands her like no one else can. He makes her feel almost normal. He makes her feel like she could fall in love again.

But despite her feelings for Beck, Bea can’t stop thinking about someone else: a guy who is gorgeous and magnetic…and has no idea Bea even exists. But Bea knows a lot about him. She spends a lot of time watching him. She has a journal full of notes. Some might even say she’s obsessed.

Bea tells herself she’s got it all under control. But this isn’t a choice, it’s a compulsion. The truth is, she’s breaking down…and she might end up breaking her own heart.”

Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes

September 1973: The beginning of Karl Shoemaker’s senior year in stifling Lightsburg, Ohio. For years, Karl’s been part of “the Madman Underground”- kids forced to attend group therapy during school. Karl has decided that he is going to get out of the Madman Underground for good. He is going to act-and be-Normal. But Normal, of course, is relative. Karl has two after-school jobs, one dead father, one seriously unhinged drunk mother . . . and a huge attitude. Welcome to a gritty, uncensored rollercoaster ride, narrated by the singular Karl Shoemaker.”

Click here for a more complete list of titles.

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Hush by Eishes Chayil February 24, 2013

hush bookHush is story of Gittel Klein, a young girl living in Borough Park, Brooklyn, the largest community of Orthodox Judaism outside Israel.  From a very early age, Gittel has been brought up to become “Eishes Chayil” or a “woman of valor.”  This means following the strict rules of her community and becoming a wife and mother.  Life in this insular community is different, but it is all she’s ever known.  The novel takes us back in time as Gittel reminisces about her family, her neighbors, and her best friend Devory.  We follow her as she celebrates Purim, sneaks kosher candy-that may not be kosher enough, and listens to her father’s stories.

When Gittel is ten, she witnesses something terrible.  Devory is raped by her brother Shmuli while Gittel lies in the next bed. Unsure of what she really saw, Gittel is confused and upset.  No one, not Devory’s parents or her own, believe that such a thing could occur.  Devory’s erratic behavior continues to escalate.  Constantly trying to stay with Gittel, she is always forced to return home-where her attacker waits.  One day, Devory commits suicide by hanging herself in Gittel’s home.  A tragedy, this is all best forgotten.  Gittel is forced to put the memory of her friend in the past and move on with her life.  Devory’s family moves to Israel and life in Borough Park goes on.

Fast forward ten years and Gittel is now eighteen – graduated and married.  Attempting to push her memories of Devory out of her mind, she can no longer ignore her feelings.  The ghost of her friends begins haunting her dreams, forcing Gittel to confront the issue.  She risks everything by going to the police and telling them what happened to her friend all those years ago.  Why did this have to happen to Devory?  Why will no one acknowledge the ugly truth?  Will Gittel avenge her friend and lay to rest the nightmares she’s been carrying around for the last decade?

Hush is an incredibly powerful book.  The author, writing under a pseudonym, gives us a deeper look into the ultra-Orthodox lifestyle.  I was entranced by the rules and rituals Gittel followed.  The author delicately describes the community, not holding back.  The sense of devotion is intoxicating while the extremities are at times alarming.  She was able to capture a complete picture of Chassidism, good and bad.  I was familiar with some of the rules, but what stood out to me was the role of women. Responsible for carrying on the traditions by giving birth, they are second-class citizens.  Gittel’s only option beyond marriage and motherhood is to become a teacher.  I was surprised at the level of glaring ignorance on the subject of sex and reproduction, not just from the women but the men as well.  Gittel’s confusion over what happened to Devory is compounded by the lack of information in the community.  They have no word for “rape” therefore it could not have happened.  Hush, don’t say a word.  It will all just go away.  Eishes Chayil has shed light on a darkness that is plaguing us all over the world, not just Borough Park.  No longer should victims be silenced.

 

Leverage by Joshua Cohen February 13, 2013

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This isn’t your average High School sports story.  Leverage is a story about bullying and abuse.  At its heart, it’s about friendship and survival.

Ruled by the popular yet sadistic football captains, Oregrove High is like any other school.  Gymnasts and footballers engage in an escalating prank war that culminates in the unthinkable.

Danny is a talented gymnast with dreams of the Olympics.  Kurt is the new guy, fresh from foster care, a wounded soul.  His stutter and his size make him an immediate target.  This odd couple comes together to get justice when the school and community turn their back.

Leverage is a super-intense, gritty, and unfortunately realistic take on some extreme bullying and abuse that takes place right beneath our very noses.  Joshua C. Cohen has brilliantly illuminated this taboo and all too common topic.

 

It’s Kind of a Funny Story February 12, 2013

Filed under: Movies & TV — Heather @ 11:20 pm
Tags: , , ,

Its-Kind-of-a-Funny-Story-Poster

PG-13, 101 minutes, Focus Features

This 2010 adaptation of Ned Vizzini’s novel by the same name was written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.  Lovers of Vizzini‘s book need not be disappointed by the film version, perhaps owed to the fact that Vizzini himself was one of the screenplay writers.

Fifteen year old Craig Gilner is over-worked and anxious about his high-pressured High School, the fictitious Executive Pre-Professional, modeled after Stuyvesant High School in NYC.  His depression has spiraled out of control until one night he contemplates jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge.  Instead, Craig goes to the ER, where he soon finds himself a patient in the psychiatric unit.

Spot-on casting of Keir Gilchrist as depressed and suicidal teen Craig Gilner, Emma Roberts as self-mutilater Noelle, and Zach Galifianakis as psych ward regular Bobby round out the ensemble.  Look for notable cast members Viola Davis as Dr. Minerva and Jim Gaffigan as Craig’s dad.