I received this book for free from Gifted in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Memory of Light by Fransisco X. Stork
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on January 26, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Illness
When Vicky Cruz wakes up in the Lakeview Hospital Mental Disorders ward, she knows one thing: She can't even commit suicide right. But for once, a mistake works out well for her, as 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 her back to the life that drove her to suicide, Vicky must try to find the strength to carry on. She may not have it. 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
First, I wanted to thank Emma from Miss Print for providing me with this ARC through her ARC Adoption program. This is my third ARC that I’ve received from her for this, so it’s a really great system. You just pay for shipping and then review it within the month of its publication. Wa-la! Go check it out, I implore you.
So now let’s talk about this book. When I saw it was available on Emma’s web
site, I immediately tweeted her about it. This past semester in my YA lit class, we read Marcelo in the Real World by Fransisco X. Stork (the author of this book), and I and most of my classmates all really enjoyed it. First of all, just look at the cover to the right:
It’s super beautiful. And it’s even better in the person. The stars are just wondrous (pssst, I love stars). And that’s just the cover. It’s actually really kind of a quiet story, but it’s of Marcelo, who is somewhere on the autistic spectrum, as he tries to navigate his life and where exactly he fits in in the real world. It was a good story, with a latino family (where being latino isn’t the primary focus of the story). So, after enjoying that one, I really wanted to see what else Stork had in store.
So let’s talk about this book: The Memory of Light.
I liked this book. It’s about a girl named Vicky who tries to commit suicide and is thus placed in the Lakeview Hospital Mental Disorders ward. The book is kind of about her journey to overcome…or maybe that’s not the right word…to learn to bear her depression. It’s interesting having read Marcelo because they’re both about two teenagers who have to learn to live in the world and life that they have. They both see the world differently than the majority of people and the books are the stories of these two figuring out their own personal lens.
The book actually opens with her suicide note, which she writes to Nana, a sweet Mexican lady who basically raised Vicky and her sister after their mother died. It was kind of shocking to start the story this way. I knew literally nothing about Vicky, only that she’s attempting to take her own life. And I think this shocking prologue was definitely effective. Reading the words that she thought were going to be her last, words to someone she trusted absolutely, let me see a small side of Vicky that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
After the note, Vicky wakes up in the mental hospital because her suicide attempt failed. And from here on, the book is not only Vicky’s story, but also the story of her three closest friends in the ward: Mona, Gabriel, E.M.. I like the inclusion of these characters because they all weren’t depressed and suicidal like Vicky was. They were each trying to deal with something different in their lives, like the beginning stages of schizophrenia or anger management problems or severe bipolar disorder. And as Vicky, and as a result we the readers, learn about the people around her, she becomes stronger because of it.
I’ve never personally suffered from depression or suicidal thoughts or attempts, so I can’t really fully understand what Vicky is going through. Or what her friends are going through either. But this book helps me gain empathy and understanding for people who have or are working through these things. And this book was heavily based on Stork’s own experiences with depression, which gives it real legitimacy and helped me to feel as this was an authentic experience.
And in this book, there was no quick and easy answer. It wasn’t like, Oh, you spent two weeks in a mental ward. Now you’re cured and will be happy forever. Stork obviously knew that that’s not how it works. Depression isn’t something that can just magically go away. It’s a daily process, and it’s one that requires constant support from friends and family.
This book was a good one, one that will help you empathize and understand something that is vital to empathize with and understand. Even if you personally don’t suffer from a mental illness, it’s so important to know and understand them…because there are so many stereotypes or false stigmas that make situations harder than they need to be. If that paragraph just made any sense (it did in my head).
Anyways, I recommend reading this book. It’s not a fast-paced book, by any means. It’s definitely more introspective than exciting. But I think books like this are really important for people, especially young adults, to read.