Friday March 15, 2013
Dealing with depression
Review by ROSHINI ANTHONY
A young adult novel takes on a subject that affects all ages.
Lovely, Dark And Deep
Author: Amy McNamara
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 342 pages
WHETHER it is a story about the sole survivor of a three-car pile up or an article about a man who was too ill to go to his office in the World Trade Center on Sept 11, 2001, do you wonder what goes through a personís mind at having escaped such situations? Do they feel gratitude or disbelief? Or do they feel guilty at being spared when others werenít?
In the young adult novel Lovely, Dark And Deep, we are introduced to Wren. Through her eyes we witness just how debilitating survivorís guilt can be.
Our story starts with Mamie, or Wren as she now calls herself, having left Mamie behind in her ďold lifeĒ, reminiscing about the events that have brought her to where she is in this point in her life, the events being a breakup with her boyfriend and his subsequent death in a car accident that she survived. The reason for Wrenís guilt is not apparent at first, you just know she somehow feels responsible when she says ďbe careful what you wish forĒ.
Her mode of coping with his death involves hiding out in her fatherís art studio in the woods instead of heading off to college as originally planned. Friends, family, and anyone else for that matter, are farthest from her mind as she gradually retreats further and further into her own thoughts.
Unlike so many other books where boy meets girl at some point in chapter three, in Lovely, Dark And Deep, Wren meets Cal very early on. A relationship is the last thing Wren wants but something about Cal intrigues her, not the least being the fact that he seems to have secrets. She tries to push him away like she does with everyone else, but even she knows that her attempts to do so are failing.
I like stories written in the first person, as I like to put myself in the protagonistís shoes and feel what he or she is feeling in order to understand motives. Unfortunately, even the first person narrative in this book couldnít help me. I very much wanted to like Wren, or at least understand the pain she was going through, but I simply could not get over her selfishness at times. There were so many people trying to help her out, both by being overly involved as well as by giving her space that I couldnít actually tell what she wanted.
Perhaps it is a credit to the author that she has provided a very clear insight into the mind of a person going through severe depression, and this confusion is true to life. Although everyone copes with grief differently, the author didnít try to make light of the heavy topic she was writing about. While it wasnít the best choice for me, perhaps someone who has gone through a similar situation or has coped with grief the same way the main character does will find a friend in Wren or, at the very least, understand her better.
One of the things that bothers me most in many young adult novels is the lack of parental involvement, and this lack stands out like a sore thumb in this book. I am not sure what sort of parent would leave their child unattended, especially one who has dealt with a horrific situation and is clearly suffering from depression. I know that watching a potentially suicidal person 24/7 is impossible, but it seems to me that most of the time, Wren is either by herself or under the care of someone unrelated such as her fatherís art student. Cal seemed to be left to his own devices as well, though I wonít tell you why I thought this was a bad idea lest I spoil the story for you.
One thing that is great about this book is its cover. I have a tendency to be drawn to beautiful covers that convey some sort of meaning or at least reflect the story, and this one did so very well. The cover perfectly captures Wrenís loneliness and despair and is probably one of the better covers Iíve seen in a while.
While the book didnít do much for me, I do salute the author for taking on a very difficult topic, one that clearly affects people of all ages, and putting it into perspective. It may not have worked for me, but hopefully someone will see him/herself in Wren and learn from her mistakes.