Suicide Notes
  • Suicide Notes
  • Suicide Notes

Suicide Notes

4.3 215
by Michael Thomas Ford

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Fifteen-year-old Jeff wakes up on New Year’s Day to find himself in the hospital. Make that the psychiatric ward. With the nutjobs. Never mind the bandages on his wrists, clearly this is all a huge mistake. Jeff is perfectly fine, perfectly normal—not like the other kids in the hospital with him. They’ve got problems. But a funny thing happens as

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Fifteen-year-old Jeff wakes up on New Year’s Day to find himself in the hospital. Make that the psychiatric ward. With the nutjobs. Never mind the bandages on his wrists, clearly this is all a huge mistake. Jeff is perfectly fine, perfectly normal—not like the other kids in the hospital with him. They’ve got problems. But a funny thing happens as Jeff’s forty-five-day sentence drags on: the crazies start to seem less crazy. . . .

Compelling, witty, and refreshingly real, Suicide Notes is a darkly comic novel that examines that fuzzy line between “normal” and the rest of us.

Editorial Reviews

Brent Hartinger
“Like the very best teen novels, Suicide Notes is both classic and edgy, timeless and provocative.”
Scott Heim
“This book is equal parts hilarious, bittersweet, and strange. You will love every page of it.”
Ellen Hopkins
Praise for Suicide Notes: “With a sprinkling of dark humor and a full measure of humanness, Suicide Notes is quirky, surprising, and a riveting read.”
“Jeff’s journey is wittily unique, balancing a fresh voice and a uniquely realistic character with comedy and seriousness.”
Publishers Weekly

Teens in a psych ward populate a novel that overcomes a predictable beginning to make a powerful emotional impact. Regaining consciousness after an aborted suicide attempt, the 15-year-old narrator thinks his parents have "overreacted" by placing him in a 45-day program in the "nuthouse" ("you know, where they keep the people who have sixteen imaginary friends living in their heads"). Readers might need patience as Jeff, the protagonist, goes through a period of denial, delivering sarcastic answers to his shrink, Dr. Katzrupus (Jeff refers to him as "Cat Poop") and holding himself aloof from the four other patients. But as Jeff begins to form relationships with these teens, Ford's (Alec Baldwin Doesn't Love Me) own strengths emerge: his characterizations run deep, and without too much contrivance the teens' interactions slowly dislodge clues about what triggered Jeff's suicide attempt. That Jeff's recovery depends on realizing and accepting that he's gay isn't explicit until the novel is almost over, that this novel goes beyond gay issues to address broader questions of identity is clear all along. Ages 14-up. (Oct.)

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Children's Literature - Julia Wang
Fifteen-year-old Jeff wakes up in the hospital to find that his parents have put him into a 45-day program in the psychiatric ward. He knows that he does not belong with the other four "crazy" children that are there, but he has no choice but to tough it out. As he is weaned off the medical drugs, he also becomes more accustomed to life in the ward. The children in the ward come and go. When they go they have either been deemed healed, or are sent into more permanent psychiatric care. Jeff sees the psychiatrist Dr. Katzrupus (Cat Poop) every day, toward whom he is sarcastic and rebellious. He does connect with another patient called Sadie, who has been through the program before. One time he tries to have sex with her but cannot. Then, Rankin comes into the program. He and Jeff explore sexually with each other, and when Cat Poop finally makes a breakthrough with Jeff, Jeff admits that with Sadie it did not feel right, but with Rankin, it did. Not that Jeff liked Rankin, but that Rankin was a guy. Jeff admits to himself that he is gay. He learns to accept who he is, and he is heading back into the world where he will be truthful with himself and with others. Ford spins a seductive tale. He deals with feelings of isolation, rejection, worthlessness, confusion, and desire to which not just teenagers but adults relate. This is Young Adult fiction at its best. Reviewer: Julia Wang
KLIATT - Ashleigh Larsen
It's New Year's Day, and 15-year-old Jeff wakes up to find that he's in the psychiatric ward of the hospital. Even with bandages on his wrists, Jeff knows this must all be a misunderstanding. He's not insane. He's not crazy like the other kids. Forced to serve his 45-day sentence in this wing of the hospital, Jeff tries to make the best of it by acting tough, sarcastically fresh, and better than the other teens. But as he continues to live there, something unexpected transforms Jeff and he starts seeing the crazies as actual people. Slowly, he opens himself up to the reasons he tried to kill himself—and what he finds is the last thing he expects. Jeff's journey is wittily unique, balancing a fresh voice and a uniquely realistic character with comedy and seriousness. YAs who are struggling to find themselves amid the pressures of teenage life can relate to Jeff's experiences. Some readers may turn away from several extremely graphic sexual scenes of a homosexual relationship. Admitting that he is gay is a difficult internal battle Jeff struggles through. Reviewer: Ashleigh Larsen
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

Jeff, the irreverent, sarcastic, and utterly terrified 15-year-old narrator, wakes up on New Year's Day in a psych ward with bandages around his wrists. He copes with his therapy by using extreme denial and avoidance, attempting to one-up his therapist, Dr. Katzrupus, or Cat Poop, with flippant, deflective wordplay and outrageous stories of faux Sugar Plum Fairy fantasies. Jeff spends the rest of his time with the other teens, including suicidal Sadie the sociopath and the gay teen in jock's clothing, Rankin. While Sadie encourages Jeff's resentment toward the program, it is Rankin's actions that force Jeff to come to terms with his suicide attempt and his own sexuality. This is a story of warped self-perception, of the lies that people tell themselves so they never have to face the truth. Ford is most successful in his withholding of Jeff's secret, a disclosure not made until the last third of the book. While the book could be named Gay Boy, Interrupted due to many similarities to Susanna Kaysen's characters and depictions of the mental-health community, Jeff's wit and self-discovery are refreshing, poignant, and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny. Readers will relate to Jeff as a teen bumbling through horrible embarrassment and the shame that follows, and they will be inspired by his eventual integrity and grace.-Kat Redniss, Brownell Library, Essex Junction, VT

Kirkus Reviews

Awakening in a psychiatric ward with gauze on his stitched-up wrists, 15-year-old Jeff tries to convince both his doctors and his parents that the cuts were just a bored teenage mistake. As other teens come and go from the ward, Jeff finds himself connecting with them in unexpected ways while confronting his own unresolved turmoil. More Kaysan (Girl, Interrupted, 1993) than Kesey, Ford's introspective tale follows a fairly typical coming-out process, though with additional angst. Astute readers will identify Jeff's secret long before his first-person, present-tense narration reveals it, but the skillfully written secondary characters, especially fellow patient Sadie, hold this work above typical gay-teen-suicide dramas. Sadie's morbid adaptation of "And then there were none" will appeal to those with dark humor and prevents the narrative tone from lecturing. Though offering nothing new or insightful, Jeff's voice shows true development during his hospitalization. Unlike James Lecesne's Absolute Brightness (2008), this sometimes melodramatic story is redeemed by creative back stories and touching relationships. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
HL670L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Suicide Notes

Chapter One

Day 01

I read somewhere that when astronauts come back to Earth after floating around in space they get sick to their stomachs because the air here smells like rotting meat to them. The rest of us don't notice the stink because we breathe it every day and to us it smells normal, but really the air is filled with all kinds of pollutants and chemicals and junk that we put into it. Then we spray other crap around to try and make it smell better, like the whole planet is someone's old car and we've hung this big pine-scented air freshener from the rearview mirror.

I feel like those astronauts right now. For a while I was floating around in space breathing crystal-pure oxygen and talking to the Man in the Moon. Then suddenly everything changed and I was falling through the stars. I used to wonder what it would be like to be a meteor. Now I know. You fall and fall and fall, and then you're surrounded by clouds and your whole body tingles as it starts to burn up from the entry into the atmosphere. But you're falling so fast that it burns only for a second, and then the ocean comes rushing up at you and you laugh and laugh, until the water closes over your head and you're sinking. Then you know you're safe—you've survived the fall—and as you come back to the surface you blow millions of bubbles into the blue-green water.

Only then your head breaks through the waves and you suck in great breaths of stinking air and you want to die, like babies when they come out of their mothers and find out that they should have stayed inside where they were safe. That's where I am now, floating in the ocean like apiece of space junk and trying not to throw up every time I breathe.

I'm not really in the ocean, though. I'm in the hospital. They say they brought me here last night, but I was totally out of it and don't remember anything. Actually, what I heard someone say was that I was kind of dead. Pretty close to dead, anyway.

I really do think I was flying around in space, though. At least for a little while. I remember thinking that I'd finally find out whether anyone lives on Mars or not. Then it was like someone grabbed me by the foot and yanked me down, back toward Earth. I remember screaming that I didn't want to go, but since you can't make noise in space, my voice was just kind of eaten up.

Now that I know where I am, I'm not so sure I wouldn't be better off just being dead.

And maybe I am dead. I mean, it does kind of feel like Hell around here. I'm in this room with people checking in on me every five seconds. And by people I mean nurses, and in particular Nurse Goody. Can you believe that? Her name is actually Nurse Goody. And she is, too. Good, I mean. She's always smiling and asking me if she can get me anything. It's really annoying, because all I want is to be left alone, and that's the last thing they seem to do here. So many people run in and out of this room, I feel like a tourist attraction. I bet Nurse Goody is standing outside the door selling tickets, like those guys at carnivals who try to get people to pay to see the freak show. Barkers, I think they're called. That's what Nurse Goody is, a barker. She stands outside my door and barks.

But it's not like there's anything interesting in here. No television. No roommate (which actually, now that I think about it, is probably a good thing). Not even any magazines or books. Just me in bed looking out the window, which is the kind with wire running through the glass so you can't break it and jump out. The paint around the windows is all chipped, like maybe someone who was in here before me tried to break the window, then decided to claw their way out instead.

Now that I look at it, the whole room is kind of old-looking. The walls are this dirty white color, and there are some cracks in the plaster, and a weird brown spot on the ceiling that looks like a face. The Devil's face, maybe. Because, like I said, I think I might be in Hell. It would make sense that he would be watching me. Him and Nurse Goody are watching me. Good and Evil.

That's funny. Good and Evil. Maybe I'm not in Hell. Maybe I'm in that in-between place. What do they call it? Limbo. Where all the dead people go who don't have a "go directly to Heaven or Hell" card. Dead babies go there, too, I think. People no one knows what to do with, and dead babies. My kind of people.

Maybe I'm in Limbo, and the Devil and Goody are fighting over me. Or waiting for me to make up my mind where I want to go. What would I pick, Heaven or Hell? That's a good question. Seriously, I think I would pick Hell. The people there would probably be more interesting.

Come to think of it, it really is hot as Hell in here. There's a radiator under the window, the big old metal kind that shakes whenever water goes through it. I guess it's been working overtime. I swear, this place must be eleventy years old. It's like any minute now the whole building is going to fall apart. At least then I wouldn't be here.

It's raining, and the only thing I can see out the window is part of a forest. Since it's winter, though, it looks less like a forest and more like a bunch of skeletons holding their hands up to the sky. The rain is running down the glass, making it look like the skeletons are under water. Drowning. Although if they're skeletons, wouldn't they already be dead? So maybe they're just swimming. Anyway, the skeleton trees are kind of freaking me out. It's looking more and more like this really is Hell. Maybe I should tell Goody she's in the wrong place.

Suicide Notes. Copyright © by Michael Ford. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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What People are saying about this

Scott Heim
“This book is equal parts hilarious, bittersweet, and strange. You will love every page of it.”
Brent Hartinger
“Like the very best teen novels, Suicide Notes is both classic and edgy, timeless and provocative.”

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