Saturday, 30 January 2016

REVIEW - HELP ME BY DONNA M. ZADUNAJSKY

Title: Help Me
Author: Donna M. Zadunajsky
Genre: YA
Release Date: 2nd January 2016

BLURB from Goodreads
A novella about a boy named Mick and his struggles with life. His parent’s divorce and a friend’s suicide make his world unbearable. Each “cut” has a deeper meaning. A cry for help. 
“I spin my dad’s Ruger SP101 revolver on the wood floor of my bedroom. Sometimes, just to see what it feels like, I place the tip of the gun against my temple, but I never once pull the trigger. NO!” 
“I’m more into the slice of the blade against my skin and the blood running down my arm.” 
“It relieves so much pressure.”
“And I can breathe again…”


PURCHASE LINKS

INITIAL THOUGHTS
I really wanted to read and review this novella and feature it on my blog, to try and help to raise awareness for the subjects contained within it, from self harming, suicide, eating disorders, bullying, cyber bullying, homophobia, domestic violence.

MY REVIEW
I downloaded an e-copy of this novella from Netgalley for free in exchange for my honest review.
The cover features part of a young male, which shows them as quite thing, and has cuts and blood running down the arm that is visible on the cover. Upon reading the book this picture ties in with the main character Mick. The title Is eye-catching because of its orientation on the cover and the use of read and black colours. There is also a byline placed on the cover which say's  "Once I Slice, it relieves so much pressure, I can breathe, again. . . . " The word "slice" is also highlighted more as that one word within the byline is red. The actual byline is from a sentence in the novella, when it is being told from Mick's point of view
Would the cover make me pick this book up from a book store shelf? Yes, I would naturally want to know who wanted the "help" and why they needed the help. as well as being inquisitive about why there is a cut on the persons arm, how it was done, why etc. So yes I would certainly pick this one up from a store shelf to read the blurb and learn more about it.
So the novella is roughly split in  two and is from the point of view of a teenage boy Mick, and also the the point of view of a teenage girl called Layla.
Mick is 13 years old and now lives with his father. His parents are divorced. Mick used to live with his mother and her new husband and a younger half brother and half sister. But things have changed because of "the incident" Mick is glad they have and blames his mother for his parents splitting up. Mick tell's us "his story" how he has recently moved in with hos father and changed schools as his parents and other adults around him have decided it is "for the best" because of "the incident" . "The incident" was Mick's best friend, in fact it seem his only friend Ray recently committed suicide. Ray took a gun, put one bullet in it and played "Russian Roulette" with it, pulling the trigger until he killed himself. Mick has a secret. . . "Russian Roulette" with a gun was a game both boys used to play. If he had been with Ray that day it could have been either of them that died or maybe even both. Both boys were sick of the bullies and their taunts. Mick and Ray were both bullied at school in person, and at home on social media. One evening after school Ray took a gun he had access to and shot himself. To say Mick feel's a kind of a "survivors guilt" is an understatement. Mick's parents then decided it would be better for Mick to live with his father and start afresh at a new school too, where no one knows about Ray and away from the bullies too.
The problem is, as I am sure many parents have sadly discovered, there are bullies at every school. So Mick is once again the butt of the jokes and bullied about his weight. this time at the new school they say he is too skinny, which is weird to him as at his old school the bullies said he was too fat! Mick is finding it really difficult to control his anger, resentment, and hoplessness for not being able to prevent his friends death. Now Mick has come up with a way to release that ever mounting pressure within him. To ease all those feelings, Mick self harms. Mick takes a razor blade and slices  into his skin. Mick began cutting as a release just a week after Ray's funeral. The bullies at his old school that he attended with Ray actually suggested that he should kill himself like Ray did! Mick is alone a lot of the time now. Micks father works long hours so it is easy for Mick to have the time and the privacy to take his razor blade and slice his arms or inner thighs. The only bright light in Micks world seems to be a girl he seems to have been crushing on forever...Layla Manning. Layla does talk to Mick and includes him in her circle of friends. Layla notices how quiet and depressed Mick seems and discusses him with her mother. It's when Layla gets a second or two glimpse during a video/skype type call (that is called Oovoo in this story)that proves to her just how seriously upset and unstable Mick is. I don't want to go on and say more as I think this is a story well worth reading yourselves. In my opinion it is a well researched, realistic story. Yes I would say it is based more around American teens as at the moment British teens thankfully do not have as much access to firearms. 
It really struck a cord with me that Mick consider his most precious possession to be a razor blade. He takes great care of this razor blade, hiding it in an ipod case, which he keeps close to him, in his bedside drawer. On hand to use whenever he feels the need. 
This book also includes some rather staggering facts about suicide such as the fact that suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in 15 to 24 year old's! and the fact that I person commits suicide every 17 minutes!
So did I enjoy the book? I think the word "enjoy" feels sort of the wrong word for this book. I did find it a fascinating, interesting and very realistic and believable read.
Would I recommend the book? In my opinion on one hand it is a book all school aged teens etc should be encouraged to read and discuss. Then again, on the other hand would the bullies just laugh at it and use it as an opportunity to bully the quieter teens etc that they already bully. It really is a catch 22 situation but we really cannot afford to ignore bullying of any kind. I also think the story proves a very sad but true fact that simply switching schools does not always work as there are bullies at all schools and establishments. It is probably better to put schemes in place to help the relevant teens deal with the bullies, the anger they have themselves and the depression as I also believe that bullying exists in all establishments be those be schools, children's groups, teen groups, and work places too. 
Bullying, cutting, guns, eating disorders and domestic violence are all touched upon in this book. We see the same amount of time and the things that occurred through the eyes and point of view of Mick and then once again from the point of view of Layla.
Would I want to read more about the characters in this book? I think this story does actually come to its natural ending. Though I did wonder all the way through the book how/why Layla was so perceptive around Mick? Had she been bullied previously? Was her mother some sort of counselor?
Would I want to read another title by this author? I would certainly look at any other title written by this author and read the blurbs to learn more about them.

Final Thoughts
A well written and very thought provoking read, with realistic characters, in real-life situations. Would love to think this book being read in all schools would perhaps slow down or eradicate the worlds bullying problem. Sadly I am cynical, so hopefully, those being bullied will read this book and have the courage to speak up, speak out and ask for help
Both interesting, and captivating novella.

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