16-year-old Vicky Cruz wakes up in a hospital’s mental ward after a failed suicide attempt. Now she must find a path to recovery – and perhaps rescue some others along the way.
Last year, I had a – thankfully – brief stint into the dark side of depression. I’ve had a few panic attacks, and some really awful thoughts about my life. But, I got better. I was able to talk to my family and friends, and I am grateful that I didn’t spiral down into a complete mental breakdown.
Yet, that darkness never totally leaves you. And ideas can never be killed. I admit, during stressful moments, I still tend to overthink and panic. But, I’m trying to handle it, and be more positive.
Maybe that’s why lately, I’ve been attracted to books that deal with depression and anxiety. I can relate to the character’s struggle and pain. Mental illness is a real disease that many people experience, yet so few truly understand.
Books about mental health is enlightening for those who are confused, and maybe helpful to those suffering. Real life is hard and complicated, and it’s nice to know that even fictional characters understand it too.
Anyways, that’s too long of a rant for me. Let’s get back to the book review:
Vicky Cruz was a teenager with everything good in her life. Her family was well-off, she was studying in an esteemed private school, she lived in a huge house with her cat and nanny. Yet, she woke up in a hospital after failing to take her own life.
At the hospital, she met new friends with such different personalities from the ones she knew all her life. There was the energetic Mona, brooding EM, and saintly Gabriel, and the force that pulls them all together, Dr. Desai.
With the change of scenery from her overachieving family, to helpful and understanding friends, Vicky was able to find peace and comfort. She slowly learned how to cope with her illness, and not let her depression control her.
Yet, sooner or later, she had to go back home. Back to the place where the memories and pain are like black clouds covering Vicky’s fragile blue sky. How can she let her father understand something she barely understood herself?
And with her newfound friends, scattered away dealing with their own crazy lives, Vicky needs to find the inner peace and strength to keep them together. And she had to find the will to live in a crazier world full of people who don’t understand what it was like to be trapped inside her own head.
What I Like:
I like Vicky and her character’s development over the course of the book. I like that the book explains depression as a tangent object: like a thick yellow fog obscuring every sane thought in your head. It’s real, and it’s a real struggle to be happy when the voices in your head tells you that you don’t deserve happiness.
Sure, Vicky had a grand life. She was a rich kid, and her whole life was ahead of her. Her mother died, but death is a part of life. And in death, her mother found peace away from the pain of cancer. Vicky still had her father and older sister. She had a best friend, and a boy who liked her. There was no reason for her to be mentally depressed, yet she was.
And that was real, and raw. Depression needs no reason. You could be the queen of the whole universe, but when that storm hits you, it hits you hard. Vicky’s struggle with understanding the whys and hows of her illness is something we could all relate with.
Aside from Vicky, I also like how the other characters were written. They were not the perfect, but their flaws make them human and real. (I don’t know how many times I’ve typed the word “real”, and I apologize.) Reading the book, you’d feel the author’s emotions and experience his journey with mental illness. You might not totally understand it by the end of the book, but at least you’ll have some inkling, a small glimpse into what other people are feeling every day.
What I Didn’t Like:
If there’s one thing I didn’t like, it was the ambiguous ending. Not sure if this is a stand-alone novel, or part of a bigger series. It’s a good read either way. I would love to know more what happened to Mona, EM and especially Gabriel.
Aside from that, I totally enjoyed this book. If there is a sequel, I’d love to read it, too.
Would I Recommend?
Yes. I recommend this book to those living with mental illness, those whose loved ones suffered from depression or anxiety, those who don’t understand why they can’t control their thoughts or emotions, and those who just want to know what it is like to be different.
The author also provided some useful hotlines and websites at the end of the book, if you are suffering from depression or have suicidal thoughts. Mental health problems are real, and awareness is one step nearer to the cure. Maybe by reading this book, people will understand it better, and be able to help those who are in need.
- Title: The Memory of Light (Paperback)
- Author: Francisco X. Stork
- Published by: Arthur A. Levine Books – 2017
- Pages: 352
- ISBN: 978-0-545-47433-7
Get your own copy by following this link!