I did not mean to do two books on incredibly sensitive topics in a row. It just worked out that way. Next time I’m definitely going to have to do Caraval, because The Impossible Knife of Memory is about PTSD. Gotta break up the heavy topics a little. So…
TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE
Book: Just a Normal Tuesday by Kim Turrisi
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction
Recommendation: I think you can tell that this is not something you pick up for a bit of light reading. That being said, I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the topic of psychology, has experienced suicidal thoughts, or knows someone who has taken his or her own life. This book might be the companion you need if you’re feeling all alone or trapped inside your own head.
Run-on Sentence Synopsis: Kai comes home and checks the mail to find a letter from her older sister, Jen, informing Kai and their parents that she is going to kill herself, and Kai rushes to her sister’s apartment only to find out that she is too late and what follows is Kai’s descent into depression followed by a trip to grief camp where she learns that she can find a way to live through the tragedy that struck her.
(Necessarily) Long Review: This book is a little different. I feel that something that touches on such an important and sensitive topic merits a very careful analysis and critique. Therefore I won’t be separating out positive and negative comments this time.
At this point I’d like to note that it is extremely difficult for me to critique Turrisi here, as this story is semi-autobiographical; when she was fifteen, her sister killed herself. But, to be fair, I am offering critique, not criticism (slight difference in connotation there).
Firstly, if you read this book, you are going to cry. If you have a heart at all, you will end up bawling your eyes out at some point. This could end up being a very necessary catharsis for you. If you have experience with suicide or suicidal thoughts, you might not even make it all the way through the book. That being said, I feel that Turrisi laid it on a little thick at times. Suicide is already such an emotionally impactful event that I feel you don’t really need to push to convey that impact to readers. The times when Turrisi shined brightest were when she let genuine emotions do the talking, rather than trying to emphasize the emotional weight with repetition and figurative language.
The biggest faults are the repetition and the occasional clunky piece of dialogue. It sometimes borders on cheesy, and there’s a bit of a pacing issue. The cursing sometimes feels gratuitous, the title is referenced multiple times with different wording (one crazy Tuesday, just another Monday, etc.), and the words “tingle,” “tingly,” and “tingling,” were used just a few times too many for my liking.
Another thing I have to say is that the book starts out with Kai finding her sister’s suicide letter, so we don’t get to see any characterization of the sister, Jen, except through brief little snapshots that barely warrant the term “flashback.” Similarly, we don’t really know who Kai is as a person. Towards the end of the book she starts to realize that she’s defining herself through her relationship with her sister, and I would have liked to see the character take steps to learn more about who she is as an individual. I appreciate beginning in medias res, but a jump backward in time after the suicide note could have helped to establish Kai and Jen as characters. Jen’s death would have meant more to me if that had happened. As it was, and again I hate to say this, the first half of the novel started to drag after a while. Because the book begins with Kai at an all-time low, we don’t get to see a downward spiral. Instead, she starts out at rock bottom, and she slowly creeps a little farther downward over numerous pages.
The grief camp part of the book, on the other hand, picks up considerably. Possibly because Turrisi relied a little more on fabrication – since she herself never attended such a camp – we see a slew of interesting characters, a burgeoning romance, and some truly heartfelt and gut wrenching stories of loss and suffering.
Over all, it’s not the perfect novel, but I genuinely believe it might be helpful to those out there who are suffering from a similar loss, or who are plagued by suicidal thoughts themselves. I think what Turrisi created is commendable to say the least, and I would recommend picking it up as long as you are prepared to be hit where it hurts.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255