Matilda Reviews: By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

Genre: Young Adult
Published: 2010

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This book deals with some very heavy subjects—bullying, sexual assault, teen suicide—and it doesn’t do it lightly, so be warned.

The story is about Daelyn, a seriously troubled young girl who has attempted suicide in the past and who plans to do it again. This time, she’s using through-the-light.com, an online suicide forum, to help her complete the job. Daelyn has very few friends, keeps to herself and is bullied mercilessly at school. Eventually she meets a young boy who, for no readily apparent reason, really likes her. He’s friendly, inquisitive and relentless in his pursuit of her friendship (or more?).

I can appreciate the good intentions of this novel, but I think it has some pretty serious flaws. The book is written in first person, but Daelyn, our protagonist, cannot physically speak when others speak to her, which inspires more frustration than empathy in the reader and makes Daelyn seem extremely passive in all social situations. She’s also really aloof, even cold, to both her parents and to the only boy who shows genuine interest in her. (Yet he keeps trying and trying to make her like him. Really? She just shunned you for the 500th time and you’re still trying to get her attention?)

I also found the explicit descriptions of suicide methods (which Daelyn found on through-the-light.com) to be very off-putting. Maybe the point is to frighten the reader or to impress upon us that suicide is often painful, messy and terrible, but to me it seems a little bit dangerous to just write it out like that in a YA book. I know that YA books are very gritty and explicit these days, and I really do appreciate that, but this seems a bit excessive. It definitely added to the eerie, disturbed feeling I had while reading—at times I even felt physically ill, especially when Daelyn was on the “completers” website. Doesn’t that term just give you the chills?

And finally, the ending. I don’t even know what to say about the ending. You’ll just have to read it yourself.

The book is a fast read and a bit of a page-turner. I read it quickly, wanting to know what had brought Daelyn to the point of suicide and why she can’t physically speak. This novel does make a powerful case against bullying. But be prepared to throw the book across the room at the end.

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