2016 VOYA Top Shelf Fiction Selection
Anna has always been so level-headed, so easy-going, so talented and funny. How could anyone have guessed she wanted to die?
Anna is not like other people. She’s always felt like she didn’t belong: not with other kids, not with her family, not in her body. It isn’t until her grandparents are killed in a tragic accident, however, that Anna starts to feel untethered. She begins to wonder what it would be like if she didn’t exist, and the thought of escaping the aimless drifting is the only thing that brings her comfort.
When Anna overdoses on prescription painkillers, doctors realize she has been suffering from depression and start looking for a way to help her out of the desperate black hole she never thought she would escape. It’s then that rock bottom comes into sight and the journey back to normal begins.
Kilbourne (Dear Jo) thoughtfully addresses the topic of suicide through the story of Anna, a young artist who seems to have it all. Anna is starting classes at a new school where she can focus on her artistic talent, surrounded by those with a similar bent. She comes from a loving, well-to-do home and has friends, as well as the eye of a boy named Kyle. Yet those things take a back seat to the yawning void inside her, the insidious sensation that steals emotions and leaves her searching for a way to permanently give in to the darkness even as she tries to hide how she feels with lies and misdirection. Kilbourne draws readers deep into Anna's thoughts and reactions, but the examination of the effects of suicide continues via the perspectives of Anna's mother and friend, Aliya. Unfortunately, Anna's recovery is rushed, especially in comparison to the attention given the events leading up to her suicide attempt. A too-pat ending and glossing-over of what mental illness treatment entails detracts from an otherwise sensitive and forthright discussion. Ages 14 up.