Teenage Suicide Notes by Terry Williams

Genres: Non-Fiction, Mental Health
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication Date: February 14th 2017

2 OUT OF 5 STARS

Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was received through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A collection of writings and confessions by suicidal teenagers. Williams evaluates these teens and tries to discover what might lead them to suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Williams examines their sexualities, family life, ethnicities, music tastes, and social situations to try and come to a conclusion that connects them all.

This book is brand new and it already feels dated. Most of the cases Williams looks at took place in the 90s and it is painfully obvious. This is no longer the culture we live in. Obviously teenagers still commit suicide and share some of the same feelings but Williams is looking at suicide through the lens of teen culture in the 90s, a culture that no longer exists.

Ignoring the fact that the book feels old, Williams has written it in an odd way. His writing is unorganized, particularly towards the end of the book. Someone using this book academically would have trouble finding the information they’re looking for. As well it leads to Williams repeating himself far too often. The number of times “I’m a good listener” was written in different ways was ridiculous.

His writing is also strangely poetic at times when he describes the appearance of the teens or their homes and it just seems out of place. This isn’t a fictional novel, it didn’t need that sort of flourish.

Out of the cases studied only two led to actual suicides. This means most of Williams’s study is skewed towards teens who overcame whatever issues they had and did not actually kill themselves. This makes it a less useful study on suicide as a whole because only two cases involve actual successful suicides. It does make the book far less depressing than it could have been but the title is rather misleading.

The best part of the book were the children’s writings, particularly the middle section where letters were scanned in. The book would have been far more powerful if it has more of the teenagers’ writings and less of Williams’s examinations of them. He falls into repetitive loops rehashing the same ideas about parenting and goth culture over and over again and it overshadows the poignant and personal writings from the teens.

This book is interesting if only for the real teen writings, but it presents an entirely different (and outdated) world from what today’s teens face.

For Fans of: School Shooters by Peter Langman

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