Tag Archives: Depression

Whitney Taylor’s Definitions of Indefinable Things – Snarky, Savage, Hopeful

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Whitney Taylor’s Definitions of Indefinable Things – Snarky, Savage, Hopeful

It’s hard to write a funny book about depression.  First, well . . . Duh – depression is depressing.  Second, humor can make depression look a lot less painful than it really is.  I felt like Whitney Taylor managed to walk the thin line between the two in Definitions of Indefinable Things.  It is hilarious, but it is also pretty honest about the realities of depression. I thoroughly enjoyed this book because of that balance, so this is a solid four star read.


Goodreads Summary

This heartbreaking, humorous novel is about three teens whose lives intersect in ways they never expected.

Reggie Mason is all too familiar with “the Three Stages of Depression.” She believes she’s unlocked the secret to keeping herself safe: Nobody can hurt you if you never let them in.

Reggie encounters an unexpected challenge to her misanthropy: a Twizzler-chomping, indie film-making narcissist named Snake. Snake’s presence, while reassuring, is not exactly stable—especially since his ex-girlfriend is seven months pregnant. As Reggie falls for Snake, she must decide whether it’s time to rewrite the rules that have defined her.

My Thoughts

I like my leading ladies savage and snarky, and I’m not sure any character is more savage and snarky than Reggie.  Watching her navigate the ridiculousness of her life is so worth your time.  The thing I liked most about her is that, while she lashes out, she really does have a heart.  She cannot overcome her innate goodness, even when spewing venom.  Now, this is an unflinching look at depression. If you have never had it, you will walk away understanding exactly how it feels.  If you have, I think you will recognize the black hole.  But what really makes this book amazing is that it is also a look at life getting better.  It isn’t a fairy tale. Things aren’t perfect or quick, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  So, don’t skip it just because you don’t want to read something depressing.  This book is so much more.  While the language and situations are frequently mature,  I think it will speak more to my high school students about the unbreakable human spirit and believing in the good things life has to offer.  I’m adding it to my classroom library wish list.  Grades 10+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Deb Caletti’s Essential Maps for the Lost – A YA read about depression that left me anything but depressed.

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Deb Caletti’s Essential Maps for the Lost – A YA read about depression that left me anything but depressed.

It is hard to explain how a book about depression made me so very happy.  Both Madison and Billy have been balancing the emotions of their unstable mothers and are living with the soul crushing responsibility and guilt that comes with the parenting of a depressed parent.  They find in each other, though, those effervescent moments of happiness and joy that are pure pleasure to experience through them.

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Goodreads Summary

Sometimes people want to be lost. Madison—Mads to everyone who knows her—is trying her best to escape herself during one last summer away from a mother who needs more from her than she can give, and from a future that has been decided by everyone but her.

Sometimes the lost do the unimaginable, like the woman, the body, Mads collides with in the middle of the water on a traumatic morning that changes everything.
And sometimes the lost are the ones left behind, like the son of the woman in the water, Billy Youngwolf Floyd. Billy is struggling to find his way through each day in the shadow of grief. His one comfort is the map he carries in his pocket, out of his favorite book, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
When three lives (and one special, shared book) collide, strange things happen. Things like questions and coincidences and secrets—lots of secrets. Things like falling in love. But can two lost people telling so many lies find their way through tragedy to each other…and to solid ground?

My Thoughts

I think these characters rang so true because their feelings, pretty and ugly, are believable and honest.  The quirks and tells of a lifetime spent walking a tightrope feel just right, and the book is paced to develop them fully.  I’m not going to lie – their relationship is messy and uncertain, but it feels like the truth.  The lessons they learn about themselves and about life add a real depth.  The secondary characters lighten the mood, and the shared dream they have to live out a childhood fantasy inspired by a beloved middle school book is sweet and realistic.  I think my high school students will respond to these characters and their situation.  I definitely want to include it in my classroom library, so it is going on the wish list.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 8+, but adult readers will appreciate it as well.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

How To Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras isn’t the light hearted YA contemporary that it appears to be

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How To Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras isn’t the light hearted YA contemporary that it appears to be

Readers who appreciate honesty and realism in their contemporary YA fiction will probably appreciate How To Be Brave more than readers who take one look at the cover and expect some light-hearted shenanigans.  While I found this book to be a bit of a downer because I was picking this book based on the cover, I really did appreciate the sincerity of the story.

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Goodreads Summary

An emotional contemporary YA novel about love, loss, and having the courage to chase the life you truly want.

Reeling from her mother’s death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave – all the things she’s wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she’s always been afraid to do – including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn’t always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most – and you learn that you’re stronger and braver than you ever imagined.

My Thoughts

This is a Bildungsroman that I think gives a very accurate portrayal of what it is like to search for your place in the world when the rug has been ripped out from under you.  Georgia is trying to get back to relishing life when the story begins, and like many of us, her journey begins with a list.  The problem with lists is that things often don’t turn out as expected, and as she tries to push herself to rejoin those who are really “living,” she finds she might just have destroyed all the things she thought she had left.  I think that is the part that is most real about this book – you can’t really just dive back into life and find that everything is golden.  It is this reality, though, that kind of made this a sad and lonely journey for me as a reader.  Georgia needs the isolation to really get in touch with who she is, but it honestly felt like she was given an extended stay in misery.  I didn’t really mind this, but I think the blurb made me expect something more light-hearted, and this was more honest than that.  I liked the characters in this book, and I liked the lessons that each of them taught Georgia.  She was a better person for having to see people through a different perspective.  I also liked the fact that, in the end, being brave meant more than just doing daring things – it really meant putting herself out there emotionally.  I did feel like the narrative kind of glossed over a pretty big issue – when Georgia does something inexplicable at a party, there aren’t really enough details to make readers understand how she could have possibly made such a colossal mistake.  I felt like Georgia didn’t really have to do any soul searching about that incident, and I think she should have had to own up to her actions more – she pays for it and regrets it, but she doesn’t really think about how she was the person at fault.  Overall, I enjoyed the truth this book told about the work we all have to do when our plans crumble around us.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.