Before I start in with my thoughts about this book, I think that it’s important to point out that there are some trigger warnings. If suicide, self harm, or severe depression are triggers for you, you might want to avoid this book, or at least keep in mind that these things pretty much make up the entirety of By The Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead.
By The Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead has been one of those books on my Amazon wishlist for ages, but not one that I have ever gotten to. Yesterday, on a whim of trying to decide what the heck to read since I have about a bazillion books on my TBR list right now, I bought the Kindle version and read through it. To be honest, I had kind of forgotten all about it until it was displayed under the “recommended for you…” part on my Kindle, so I decided why not?
The book is relatively short – in fact, it’s only a little over 200 pages, so it was a quick read. This is the kind of book that I normally would have been able to get through in one sitting, but because I had so many issues with the main character, I guess I took breaks here and there (plus as usual, there’s real life too). This is going to be one of those books that are difficult for me to review, so let me figure out the best way to do so.
Did I like this book? Yes.
Did I love it? No.
This is the first book that I’ve read by Julie Anne Peters, and I thought that she covered the whole thoughts of depression and suicide well. I’ve read a lot of books pertaining to severe depression, and as someone who experienced severe depression throughout her entire teenage years (and a good deal of my adult years), I am drawn to books that are going to make me see the world in a new light and make me feel less alone. So I wanted to love this book so much for those reasons alone. Not to mention that there are other books by this author that I’ve wanted to check out for some time now, too.
“If I could speak, I’d tell her, ‘What can happen in a few minutes changes you forever.'”
The basis for By The Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead is that the main character, Daelyn, doesn’t want to live anymore. She has already tried more than once to take her life, but never succeeded – making her more determined than ever to finish what she started.
She finds a website called Through The Light that is designed for “completers,” or those who are determined to take their life and not fail. Daelyn feels at home using this website – that is, when her father isn’t monitoring her computer access and she actually has the time to use it. She creates an account, talks to others on the forums, and learns about different ways that she can commit suicide – and the website even gives her an ideal date to do so.
With her date in mind, the book counts down from her designated date through the day she is supposed to go through with taking her own life.
When Daelyn isn’t using this website to interact with others or read about new ways that she can use to succeed this time around, she goes to a private school where she doesn’t have any friends, and most of the people there call her a freak because she can’t speak and she wears a neck brace. She is bullied there the way she has been bullied her entire life, all the way from being a small child until now, and every day, she is more and more determined to make this pain go away.
“Your failures and your faults. They stick with you. They glob into ugly, cancerous growths inside you and make you want to die.”
When she meets Santana, a boy who she has to wait with outside school every day while she waits for her mother or father to pick her up, she is determined not to become friends with him. She tries to stay away from him, to ignore him, to shut him out of her life, but little by little, he makes his way in. Little by little, she wonders what it would be like to have him in her life, as a friend. She’s never really had a friend, and from past experiences, she is afraid of what could happen if she went with it.
When a girl at school starts trying to talk to her, and she starts to have small bonding moments with her mother, she can’t handle it – she is determined to commit suicide and doesn’t want to have anyone close to her that might make her change her mind. She tries to pull back, but she secretly craves having friends, a family who understands, and maybe a boyfriend who likes her for who she is. But as her date continues to count down every day when she logs onto Through the Light, she gets more and more confused.
So what did I really like about this book? I loved the whole premise about the Through the Light website. I’ve read a lot of other books about depression and suicide, but I think this is a unique take on such a dark and hard to talk about subject. I’m not saying I wish this was a real website (because there are no words for how much I hope something like this does not exist), I just think that it really added something into the book that I haven’t seen before.
I also loved Santana’s character. He was fun, and he tried so hard to get Daelyn’s attention and become her friend. While she fought him off and tried to get him to stay away from her, he just kept trying, doing whatever he could to get her to talk to him.
The one major problem that I had with this book was Daelyn’s character. I just couldn’t connect to her, at all, and I kind of felt like her personality was kind of flat. I wished there had been more to her, and maybe I wish her character would have been written in a better way. As someone who has suffered from severe depression for years, I know what it feels like to want to cut everyone off and isolate yourself, so that wasn’t what I disliked about her so much. It’s actually hard to pinpoint exactly what it was, but I just felt like the author could have done a better job of writing her character than she did. I was just indifferent towards Daelyn.
The fact that Daelyn’s parents hovered and cared for her was nice – I see the whole absent parent syndrome a lot in YA and this was a nice breath of fresh air. Her mom wasn’t really the nicest person on earth, constantly making jabs at Daelyn’s weight and asking her why she never even bothered trying. I really disliked that. It was honestly quite appalling. Her dad monitored her computer usage and her parents worked to make sure she was never alone and that she always took her pills, so it was obvious that they cared about her, but their relationship with Daelyn just seemed strained.
Potential Spoiler Alert!
The ending of this book also threw me for a real loop. If you know me, you know that I’m not a fan of open endings, which is more or less what this book has to offer. There isn’t a nicely wrapped package all tied up with a bow, but rather it’s a lot more open ended than usual and I really disliked it. In fact, the ending itself caused me to take a whole star off my rating. It’s the kind of ending that’s going to bother me for ages, and I wished it had been even a little more clearer than it was. I really hate endings that leave a book feeling almost unfinished.
All in all, I think this book was a really interesting read that offered a look at depression and suicide that we might not have seen before. It’s different, yes, and while I think it’s worth a read, it didn’t live up to my hype as much as I had hoped it would.