Friday, March 11, 2011

By The Time You Read This, I'll be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

I just finished reading

I was immediately enthralled by the cover of BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS, I'LL BE DEAD. It was a quick read at only 200 pages, yet it also was an uncomfortable read. I couldn't read it in one sitting because I wanted time to really analyze what I was reading. Julie Anne Peters does such a wonderful job diving into the head of teenager who feels hopeless. There were times I could feel Daelyn's pain jumping off of the pages at me. Daelyn is trapped in a life she cannot stand. She has tried numerous times to end her own life, and her resulting failures only add to her anguish that she shouldn't exist. The plot is centered on a message board that Daelyn stumbles across during an internet search. It turns out to be a message board of all individuals who are contemplating ending their own lives. Once she enters the website, she has only 23 days until the day of the deed. Each chapter counts back as the days tick away.

I read this book trying to incorporate two points of view. I wanted to consider the impact of bullying on the receiver. The similarities to what Daelyn lived through--her own private hell during her primary years--was eerily similar to some of the teasing I can recall as a young student. For this reason alone, the novel feels real. She hears so many negative comments from her peers, mostly directed towards her weight that she begins to believe them to be true. However, I also wanted to read this book from the point of view of a parent/educator. What were the warning signs Daelyn gave for her deep depression? She was so isolated, she never made eye contact with anyone, and her self-esteem had plummeted. How could the influential adults in her life not notice she is once again contemplating her own death? For this reason, also, the novel felt real. Every day suicide occurs among young adults and there are typically warning signs gone unnoticed.

For this novel, I would want to know more about the reader. It gives numerous ways to end one's life, and even goes as far as to tell how painful the deed would be. On one hand, I wouldn't want to put this book into the hands of a student who feels similar to Daelyn, completely hopeless. However, there are several useful resources listed in the back for bullying and suicide that would be helpful knowledge for most young adults.

I do love the way the author tries to portray Daelyn as a stronger person towards the end of the novel. I was certainly left with questions lingering, which educators will love. There is room to be creative. The discussion questions at the end are also really helpful to dive into the novel and examine your own predefined notions. More importantly though it will allow anyone who has noticed bullying, been bullied, or is a bully see how devastating and detrimental that teasing someone can be.

The only negative things I can say about BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS, I'LL BE DEAD are:
* Each participant of the message board is assigned a Jane Doe user name; it can become confusing at times when the writers are changing'
* This novel also uses quite a bit of profanity, but does not allude to any sexual connotations.
* I didn't like the ending; I wanted to know more.

You can buy the book here. You can visit Julie Anne Peter's website here.