When Vicky Cruz wakes up in the Lakeview Hospital Mental Disorders ward, she knows one thing: After her suicide attempt, she shouldn't be alive. But then 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 Vick back to the life that drove her to suicide, she must try to find her own courage and strength. She may not have them. 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.
The Memory of LightFeatured
THE MEMORY OF LIGHT starts right after Vicky Cruz wakes up in Lakeview Hospital Mental Disorders ward after a failed suicide attempt. Her life hasn't been the same after her mother died of cancer. Vicky's father though has been in denial over her depression and even her suicide attempt. While at the hospital, Vicky finds herself with other teens who struggle with their own mental illnesses. Mona, who has bipolar disorder; E.M. who is always angry, Gabriel, who seems perfect but is hiding his own secret, and Dr. Desai. Vicky finds that this group is willing to listen and accept her for who she is. This is very unlike the competitive structure in her family. Through this all, Vicky needs to not only face her own demons but find the strength to want to live.
What worked: The voice is authentic with Vicky coming to terms with her depression. There are some really great images where she describes her feelings and what lead her to want to attempt to kill herself.
...Sometimes it's like the hum of an air conditioner, you know? Always there but noticeable only when I paid attention. And other times it just appeared out of nowhere, like my cat jumping on my lap."
Her relationship with her father, who is in denial, is very realistic. Some people are very uncomfortable on this subject and her father is one of them. I really felt the scenes that showed the interaction between them was real.
One huge thing that worked had to be the observations others had of those who are struggling with schizophrenia. A friend of mine described similar things whenever she visited a friend's tween who they think has schizophrenia. Author nailed the whole switching from the person you know to the one that hears the voices. The shift in personalities can be subtle and/or quick.
The scenes were Mona is manic were very realistic from the pent up antsy energy,talking super fast, to self-medicating. I grew up with a bipolar father, uncle, and older brother who all refused to take lithium or get treatment. So I could connect with Mona's struggles and how much she loved the energy of not taking her medicine.
I also loved how Vicky mentioned that she wrote poetry to deal with her depression. I did the very same thing when I was a young adult. Poetry 'saved' me as I was able to write what I was feeling when I felt I couldn't talk to others.
What I did have issues with though had to be how fast these teens bonded at the hospital. I never had to stay in a hospital but I've had a friend whose son has been in a few. There has been more in his groups than the one in the book but then again each experience is different. At times though this story had a RED BAND SOCIETY feel going for it where the teens automatically connect. Sure, E.M. at first was a little standoffish and blunt to the point of being offensive, but not much longer? He was there with the others.
Another thing that I felt held the story back had to be how quick most of the them were self-diagnosing each other. It felt almost a little too convenient. I do know that there are those that do research their illnesses but not all.
Overall, loved the insight into a teen's depression and what led her to attempt suicide. Realistic depictions that show teens dealing with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Also authentic portrayal of how some family/friends are in denial to why a love one might try to attempt suicide.