Monday, December 31, 2012

My Beautiful Failure by Janet Ruth Young

Flo's Review
My biggest challenge will be keeping this not too incredibly long so that the other Book Nerds have space to write their reaction. I haven't had such a reaction to a book in awhile. I am not even sure how I feel about this. Let me explain...

I started reading this book, and I didn't like it. But the chapters are short (some are only a few paragraphs or a single page) and that makes for a quick and easy read. The more I read, the more I didn't like Billy, the main character. Like, really not a fan. So much so, that I grabbed a notebook and started writing down all the things I didn't like about Billy. (I won't take up space with the list, but it is available upon request :) But, I kept reading. Because it is such a fast and easy read, I decided to stick it out. I thought that maybe this book would gain redemption at the end by Billy completing changing and turning into a character I actually liked...I mean, this all had to be going somewhere right? There is a lot of build up in this book: build up between Billy and Jenney's relationship, build up with Billy's dad. The two run parallel to each other.

The more I read, the more I still didn't like Billy. Then I hit the last third of the book...and I couldn't put this puppy down. Janet Ruth Young's pacing is fantastic, and the short chapters really make for a suspenseful story. I still didn't like Billy, but I was rooting for him. The end I was looking for didn't happen, in that Billy didn't undergo some amazing character growth and turn into this new and awesome person. But his perspective changed, and he was proven wrong about a lot of things.

This book brings up some, for lack of a better word, heavy things to think about. I mean, it's about a suicide hotline. But, really, it's about connections -- the importance of connecting to other people and of not taking our relationships for granted. It's about looking at other people and seeing them as they really are, not as they were or as you want to see them. It's also about taking an honest look at ourselves.

I love when a book changes my mind. I love when a book really makes me think. I love when I put a book down and can't stop thinking about. So, thank you Janet Ruth Young. And yes....I recommend this book.

Jacque's Review:
Billy is a sixteen year old high school sophomore.  The winter prior to the start of this book, his father was severely depressed.  He wasn't eating or sleeping and he eventually had to seek treatment.  This was a very stressful time for Billy and his family and it has greatly influenced who Billy is today.   

Throughout the book, Billy maintains a watchful eye on his father and tries to make sure he does everything necessary to remain healthy.  He has even decided that he would like to become a psychologist because he wants to help others like his father.  His father decides to paint as a hobby and eventually wants to have an art show.  His stress level begins to increase and he is once again not sleeping or eating.  Billy begins to worry that things will spiral out of control again.

His father tells him to find a project or hobby of his own, so he decides to volunteer at Listeners, a suicide hot line.  He is remarkably good at listening and handles the calls perfectly when he first starts.  He begins to take a personal interest in one of the regular callers named Jenney.  

As Billy's concern for his father increases, so does his own need for emotional support.  He and Jenney begin to rely on each other and their relationship turns into more than that of a typical Listener and Incoming.

I did not have the same reaction to Billy as Flo.  He isn't going to become the next Noah Shaw or Etienne St. Clair, but I can certainly appreciate what he was trying to accomplish.  He seemed to have only the best of intentions even if his actions were not always ideal. 

I really enjoyed the format of the book.  When Billy wasn't talking to another character or caller, it felt like he was talking to the reader.  He would tell us about what happened when his father was ill and what he was observing now.  The chapters are very short and the conversational style kept the pages turning.

The one thing that did bother me is the fact that the author used an acronym twice in the book without defining it.  I spent a considerable amount of time researching it and even asked one of the doctors I work with to see if he knew what it meant, but I am still at a loss.  Based upon the context it was used in, I am guessing that Billy was referring to his father the way we would refer to a patient.  Kind of like he was the psychologist and his dad is his patient.  If a doctor and nurse can't figure out what the acronym means, it clearly should be defined when used in a teen novel.

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