Book Title:
The Memory of Light
Book Author:
Francisco X. Stork
Publishing Date:
January 26th, 2016
Publisher:
Arthur A. Levine Books
Date Read:
January 17th, 2016

Synopsis

When Vicky Cruz wakes up in the Lakeview Hospital Mental Disorders ward, she knows one thing: She can’t even commit suicide right. But for once, a mistake works out well for her, as 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 her back to the life that drove her to suicide, Vicky must try to find the strength to carry on. She may not have it. 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.

My Review

There are a plenty of young adult novels dealing with depression, mental illness, and suicide already on the shelves, but many of those books deal with the events leading up to and surrounding the depression and suicide attempts, and then stop shortly after.  A lot of the books that are written this way don’t mention much in the main character’s road to recovery.  This book is special because it focuses on what happens to the main character after her suicide attempt, including her struggle to get well, instead of just the events that led up to it.

Vicky is depressed.  She’s depressed about a lot of things, including her mother’s death a few years ago, her father’s quick decision to remarry someone Vicky never really was able to accept or get along with, her lack of real friends, and the fact that she constantly feels pressured to do everything perfectly by her father.  She feels like she has to do well in school, participate in debate club even though it isn’t her thing, and get into a great college – all because that’s what her father wants for her.  Under the pressure and so depressed she realizes there is no way to go on, Vicky writes her Nana (the family’s housekeeper, who took care of Vicky and practically raised her) a letter and tries to end her life.  When Vicky wakes up in the hospital, she is faced with a choice: go home and more than likely end up trying to hurt herself again, or stay at the hospital and try to get help so that she can get better.

Choosing to stay at the hospital and get better, Vicky spends time with some of the other teenagers there.  She quickly becomes friends with them, and learns little things about their stories along the way – why they are there, what their family lives are like, and what kind of secrets they are keeping.  With the help of her doctor, Vicky strives to understand why she attempted to end her life and what she can do to emerge from the cloud of depression that surrounds her.

The story itself is inspiring and beautifully written.  Since so many teenagers and members of the young adult book audience wake up and face depression on a daily basis, it is always nice to have another book dealing with these issues so no one has to feel quite so alone.  These types of books can be quite helpful in dark times, and sometimes it’s nice to have a reminder that all moments in life matter – and that it’s important to take the bad moments with the good ones.

The characters in The Memory of Light are well written and have their own unique stories, personalities, and problems.  It’s clear that a lot of effort was put into writing these characters and making them so well rounded and multidimensional.  It was easy to connect with them, especially the main character Vicky.  She tries so hard to be perfect, but she just gets burned out and can’t deal with it anymore, and her father still tries to push her harder, discrediting her feelings as if she doesn’t matter.  Too much pressure can make pretty much anyone crack – plus Vicky had a “perfect” big sister to follow up to, making things even more complicated for her.  Also, adding on the fact that Vicky’s father and stepmother plan on sending Vicky’s Nana back to Mexico so he doesn’t have to help care for her with the arthritis she has developed, I can’t imagine how along Vicky must feel.

Also, let me throw in here that while so many books end up having this ridiculous romance in there somewhere (even if it doesn’t fit with the plot), this book does not have a romance.  It has brief mentions of the boy that had a crush on Vicky, and Vicky turned down, but there isn’t any kind of insta-love/love triangle/romance that doesn’t fit with the rest of the book kind of thing going on.  This was amazing, in my opinion…I’m so tired of seeing nothing but romance in every single book I pick up, especially about those dealing with such deep subject matter.

The Memory of Light is a beautiful, original novel about what it means to keep going on even when you don’t feel like you have the strength to keep moving forward.  It is inspiring and will make you see the world in a completely new light – making sure that you appreciate both the little and the big things in your life.

Note:  I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

4 stars
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