I just returned from a whirlwind trip to San Francisco where I watched my son Chris compete in the Golden Shovel competion between Berkeley and Stanford. The two schools' teams are given a location (this year's was a strip mall in Walnut Creek) to develop, and a panel of judges determines which team has the better plan. Both teams came up with a plan for senior housing developments, but Berkeley's was deemed the superior project. They got custody of the revolving trophy which is a life size golden shovel, as well as $2000 for their favorite charity. It was great fun!
There was lots of down time for the visiting mom during the judging process, so of course I brought a book - BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS, I'LL BE DEAD by Julie Anne Peters. After many failed suicide attempts, Daelyn signs into an interactive website, "Through the Light," which guides people through the suicide process, including pain and effectiveness ratings for various methods for killing oneself. She gives herself 23 days until her "Date of Determination." Then she meets Santana, a quirky cancer patient who wants nothing more than to live. Despite her hostility, he is determined to befriend her and change her view of life.
Daelyn, who is mute from her last suicide attempt, describes her daily life in a journal. As she slowly reveals the issues that led her to her suicidal frame of mind, the reader begins to realize that this damaged teen is a highly unreliable narrator. In additon to suicide advice and thought provoking questions for the user, the site provides a forum where users can tell their incredibly painful stories. When Daelyn finally spills her guts, she realizes no one in the forum is really listening; whereas Santana never quits trying to engage her. The ambigous ending is highly effective and the author provides discussion prompts, information on bullying and anti-bullying websites, as well as suicide prevention hotlines and websites. Although this is a disturbing read, I would recommend it for high school readers. It might be especially effective in counseling situations.