My Beautiful Failure

( 3 )

Overview

The haunting account of a teen boy who volunteers at a suicide hotline and falls for a troubled caller.

As her life spirals out of control, Jenney’s calls become more desperate, more frequent. Billy, struggling with the deteriorating relationship with his depressed father, is the only one who understands. Through her pain, he sees hope. Through her tears, he feels her heart. And through her despair, he finds love. But is that enough?

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My Beautiful Failure

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Overview

The haunting account of a teen boy who volunteers at a suicide hotline and falls for a troubled caller.

As her life spirals out of control, Jenney’s calls become more desperate, more frequent. Billy, struggling with the deteriorating relationship with his depressed father, is the only one who understands. Through her pain, he sees hope. Through her tears, he feels her heart. And through her despair, he finds love. But is that enough?

Acclaimed author Janet Ruth Young has written a stunning and powerful story with no easy answers; it is about pain and heartbreak, reality and illusion, and finding redemption and the strength to forgive in the darkest of times.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Billy wants to be a psychologist; he’s already lived through his father’s serious depression in Young’s first book, The Opposite of Music. Now that his father has perked up and started painting again, Billy begins volunteering at a suicide prevention hotline. Although some of the rules bother him (no ongoing relationships with repeat callers; no contacting emergency services without the caller’s permission), he’s eager to help, perhaps even save a life. Increasingly worried that his father’s mood is verging on mania, Billy grows distant from his mother and sister and closer to Jenney, a frequent hotline caller whose problems get more florid as the book progresses. In her third novel about mental illness, Young proves she isn’t afraid of dark topics, but while she persuasively depicts Billy’s overinvolvement with Jenney and his certainty that his family is in denial, she offers little counterweight to Billy’s judgments (Gordy, Billy’s saintly best friend, occasionally offers advice). Readers wondering why Billy, a smart high school sophomore, never questions either Jenney’s stories or his own take on his father’s situation may not fully connect with him. Ages 12–up. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
"The emotional resonance here is complex and multifaceted, melancholy even where there’s hope and hopeful in the midst of melancholy; readers will be thinking about this one long after they close the book."

"The insider view of a suicide hotline is a poignant one. Like the realistic novels of Todd Strasser, this compelling title places a young person in a moral quandary that could literally mean the difference between life and death."

"The heavy subjects of mental illness and suicide are deftly handled with a surprisingly light touch. Recommended"

Kirkus Reviews
This account of a teen suicide-hotline volunteer is brimming with wry humor and whimsical charm, but as somber events unfold, that light tone feels uncomfortably inappropriate, as if it belongs to some other novel. Last seen in The Opposite of Music (2007), the Morrison family has weathered father Bill's mental breakdown. He's painting again, confident he's recovered, but Billy, 16, has doubts; he's determined to prevent a repeat. Having immersed himself in psychology texts, Billy follows a friend's suggestion to volunteer with the Listeners suicide hotline. Disappointingly, most callers prove merely lonely, bored, eccentric or sexually deviant. Then Jenney calls. Depressed, she's dropped out of college; her therapist, Melinda, is guiding her to recover memories of parental abuse (readers will wonder if Melinda herself manufactured these). Jenney's praise leads Billy to fantasize their future relationship and share his parental worries with her. Jenney herself never comes into focus; Billy's character drives the story. He's a case study in teen-psyche contradictions--self-centered and altruistic, grandiose and helpless--above all, agonizingly self-conscious. The Morrisons are vivid creations, though these sly, observant portraits may resonate better with adults than teens. Short chapters with enigmatic titles and abrupt, nonlinear shifts in storytelling combine to suggest a graphic novel missing its art. Young's a talented original yet to find her niche. Despite the clever characterizations, the title says it all. (Fiction. 12 & up)
Booklist
"The insider view of a suicide hotline is a poignant one. Like the realistic novels of Todd Strasser, this compelling title places a young person in a moral quandary that could literally mean the difference between life and death."
Library Media Connection
"The heavy subjects of mental illness and suicide are deftly handled with a surprisingly light touch. Recommended"
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"The emotional resonance here is complex and multifaceted, melancholy even where there’s hope and hopeful in the midst of melancholy; readers will be thinking about this one long after they close the book."
Children's Literature - Bonita Herold
Billy wants to be a psychologist. He carries a psychology book around with him, to gain an understanding of everyone's idiosyncrasies and identify possible underlying mental illness. Knowing these things is important to him; it has fallen to him to understand his dad and keep him on an even keel. No one but Billy seems to notice that his father, with his manic approach to painting, is sliding back into craziness. Since no one at home listens to his concerns, Billy feels as if he will go crazy if he does not get out of the house. He volunteers at the Listeners, a suicide hotline. As a sophomore in high school, he has other responsibilities, of course—mainly, homework. But everything else in his life takes a back seat once he "meets" Jenney, a daily phone caller he falls for. No one but him seems to "get" her. Reading this book is like watching a train wreck. The carnage is not pretty, and the reader is tempted to yell "Pull the cord!" But teens often keep things inside; they magnify the mundane and simplify the complicated. Complex and real emotions run rampant as Billy attempts to explain away events from his own point of view. As Billy copes with both his despair and that of his surprising love interest, this story will appeal to teenagers on the brink of discovering what makes them who they are. Reviewer: Bonita Herold
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Billy's family is still recovering from last winter, when the teen's father sank into a deep depression that he's only now just coming out of. Billy, 16, channels his frustrations and worry about his father's mental health into his sophomore-year project, volunteering as a friendly, welcoming ear for the depressed, lonely, and/or bored callers to the Listeners hotline. He plans to be a psychologist, so he's pleased with the work, but he soon breaks the biggest rule of Listeners: he gets involved with a caller. Billy knows he should pretend each call with Jenney is the first one, that they don't have a history, but he can't help falling for her and believing that they are the answer to each other's problems. Jenney's calls become more and more desperate right up to the very last one, when Billy does everything he can to be the one to save her. The premise is interesting and unusual, but flaw in the plot makes it unrealistic: the hotline takes teen volunteers with very little training. Plus, while readers are supposed to find Billy insightful and empathetic, instead he comes across as a pompous know-it-all whose ordeals do not help him grow.—Brandy Danner, Wilmington Memorial Library, MA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416954897
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 11/13/2012
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 907,048
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 8.32 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Janet Ruth Young is the author of the teen novels My Beautiful Failure, Things I Shouldn’t Think (previously published as The Babysitter Murders), and The Opposite of Music. She lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Visit her at JanetRuthYoung.com.

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Read an Excerpt

1.

she was

She was a girl talking to me in the dark.

Everybody knows what happened with my parents. Everybody I talk to when I call.

“You can turn your life around,” I had told her. “Starting today, you can be free. You can do anything you want. Don’t you see that?”

I’m down, but I’m not out. I’m a fighter. On my good days, few can defeat me.

“I admire that about you,” I had told her.

I remember every compliment you ever gave me. Especially when you said I was strong.

“I have to go. Will you be okay?”

I’ll handle it. I always do. Good night, sweet Hallmark prince.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2012

    Read it!

    This isome ofthe best books i have read in a long time! I totally suggest reading!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2013

    AMAZING

    This book was honestly one of the best books that i hae ever read..

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2013

    Age?????

    Age?????

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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