I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on February 10, 2015
Source: the publisher
13 Reasons Why meets the poetry of Emily Dickinson in this gripping debut novel perfect for fans of Sara Zarr or Jennifer Brown.
A Goth girl with an attitude problem, Elizabeth Davis must learn to control her anger before it destroys her. Emily Delgado appears to be a smart, sweet girl, with a normal life, but as depression clutches at her, she struggles to feel normal. Both girls are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, where they connect to the words of Emily Dickinson. Both are hovering on the edge of an emotional precipice. One of them will attempt suicide. And with Dickinson’s poetry as their guide, both girls must conquer their personal demons to ever be happy.
In an emotionally taut novel with a richly diverse cast of characters, readers will relish in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and be completely swept up in the turmoil of two girls grappling with demons beyond their control.
Warning: This review/book could be a Trigger for depression, suicidal thoughts, suicide, etc. Please read with caution.
When Reason Breaks was a heart-wrenching, realistic portrayal of two girls fighting to stay in control of their lives while battling depression. This book pulled me in from the very first page and refused to let me go until the very last page. My emotions were all over the board with this book – I laughed a few times, grinned like an idiot a few times and, of course, cried for nearly the entire ending. It had a wonderful, highly important plot and a definite must-read. You’ll feel for the characters and race through the book until you find out which character was in that first, heart-breaking chapter.
Emily Delgado and Elizabeth Davis were two very different girls on the outside, yet both were hurting on the inside. Emily was the quiet popular girl with a big group of friends, good grades and a seemingly perfect family. She was really good at hiding her depression and faking a smile. Elizabeth was the quiet outcast who spoke her mind, dressed the way she wanted and didn’t care what others thought – at least, on the outside. On the inside, she was dealing with a broken family and feeling lonely and depressed. This book breaks every stereotype known to YA literature, just by proving that what someone shows the world on the outside, doesn’t always match how they feel inside.
Abby and Sarah, Emily’s friends, were tough to like, especially Abby and especially in the beginning. But as I kept reading, I realized something: Sometimes, some people who are depressed are so good at faking a smile, even their close friends and family can’t tell how they actually feel. So maybe Abby and Sarah can’t be blamed for being so oblivious – Emily was just really good at keeping them in the dark.
I adored Kevin. At first, he seems like the stereotypical popular guy, but then he broke every high school relationship stereotype and proved that good guys do still exist. He loved Emily and wanted to be with her for all the right reasons. Even when she flipped out on him a few times, he didn’t throw his hands up and walk away. Rather, he calmed her down and spoke to her, gave her space when she needed it. But he never gave up on her. I thought Kevin and Emily were adorable together and completely shipped them.
I really liked Tommy. He was the friend Elizabeth desperately needed. I hated the few times they fought, especially that moment near the middle/end that set things in motion.. It was incredibly sad and frustrating. When they weren’t fighting, they were so sweet together.
The social interactions in this book were epic, as well. There weren’t any obvious cliques, though you could tell who would be in what group if there were. But otherwise, everyone kind of hung out with everyone and everyone had friends that crossed the invisible cliques. Best example: Elizabeth is the tough-girl outcast who skips class and Emily is the relatively normal popular girl, yet Kevin hangs out with Tommy and sits with him and Elizabeth at lunch, instead of sitting at the “popular” table.
I loved Ms. Diaz. She was the kind of English teacher I would have loved. She reminded me of some of my past english teachers, as well, so I could picture exactly what class with her would have been like. Although if I had actually had her in high school, I probably would have been mentally checked out and overwhelmed because even though poetry is beautiful, I never understood it or could analyze it.
As a little (random) side-note, I have to say that Cindy Rodriguez did a wonderful job of capturing high school life. I didn’t realize at first, but I was actually picturing my 12th grade English classroom as Ms. Diaz’s classroom. Also, the hallway outside that classroom. So when she stood at the door to greet the students, I pictured the characters walking down the hallway in my high school and entering my old classroom, etc. Random, I know, but I wanted to throw that in there. It just shows how realistic and well-done this book was and how much it spoke to me.
Throughout the book, there were letters, class assignments, etc, that were meant to show us which girl was suicidal and why. Though I had a very firm opinion about this before I even started reading the book – based on the synopsis and what I’d heard from other people – Rodriguez did an incredible job of keeping which girl it was a mystery until the very end. The build-up to the reveal and the moments after were heart-wrenching, emotional and intense. I pretty much couldn’t stop sobbing throughout the entire ending, from the build-up to the very last page.
The message that I took from When Reason Breaks is that you never know what someone is feeling, just by looking at them. They might look “normal” on the outside, or they might seem like the “outcast.” But you can’t judge someone based on the face they show the world. Because inside, they could be hurting. They might be surrounded by people all day, yet still feel alone. But the bottom line is, you’re never as alone as you feel. And there’s always someone who cares.
Overall, even though I don’t think my review adequately expresses how this book made me feel, I loved it. It was sad and emotional and difficult to read, but it’s definitely a must-read. It’s an important book in the mental health discussion and I highly, highly recommend it.
If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, please speak up. Speak to an adult you trust.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website
Stop Bullying website
NOH8 Campaign website
Heather Brewer, a young adult author and a big advocate of mental health and bullying prevention, has a special message for you, too. Check it out here.