A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know The Memory of Light, by Francisco X. Stork (Marcelo in the Real World), tells the story of Vicky, a teen who has been unknowingly grappling with depression. The story follows Vicky as she recovers from a suicide attempt and works to understand how to move forward with her life. She meets other teens who are dealing with different forms of mental illness, and all have challenges in their home lives. Readers get an unflinching take on what it's like to live with mental illness and how hard it is to explain it to friends and family. The book has more emotional intensity than violent and sexual intensity. There's one physical fight involving a kitchen cleaver, broken teeth, and choking. Characters don't swear, the strongest language being "God" and "heck." Two characters kiss, but it's mild. One character smokes cigarettes and overdoses on morphine, but the drug use isn't shown. Most of the characters are Latinos from all walks of life, which makes this a good choice for readers who are looking for diverse characters. At the end of the book, the author provides several resources for suicide prevention.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
THE MEMORY OF LIGHT opens with Vicky's suicide note to her longtime nanny and de facto grandma, Juanita. When Vicky is discovered barely alive, she's taken to the local public hospital, a place her rich, elitist father abhors. Vicky, however, likes the hospital, her doctor, and the other patients. Because she's from a wealthy family and attends an exclusive private school, Vicky's time at the hospital exposes her to more of the "real" world and the people in it. Much of the book follows Vicky's time with other teen mental patients she meets in group therapy. She learns about her depression and the illnesses her new friends are dealing with. The book isn't plot-driven but is more of an emotional journey, with Vicky figuring out that everyone's fighting a personal battle or demons that aren't obvious to the casual observer. She leans how to help herself, how to ask for help, and how to help others.
Is it any good?
This honest and moving novel details one teen's journey into depression, her attempted suicide, and what it takes to climb out of the deepest emotional pits. Author Francisco X. Stork gives us a real, unflinching look into the way depression and other mental illnesses feel to those afflicted. When Vicky finds herself in the local public hospital after a suicide attempt, she's not sure she won't try to kill herself again once she goes home. Meeting other patients from different backgrounds opens her eyes to the suffering of people around her, including her family. This book will resonate with anyone who has experienced or knows someone who has mental illness, and it will educate those who have never been touched by it. Vicky's exploration of her depression takes the reader on a journey of emotional discovery. Along the way, she learns that many people are fighting illness and problems in their personal lives, even though they put on a brave facade to face the world every day. Through her group therapy and in finally opening up to those around her, Vicky learns that her traits she considers weaknesses are seen as strengths by others.
The only downside in the book is that the dialogue isn't always authentic. Often the characters are clear mouthpieces for messages the author wants to convey. This can come across as clunky, with characters taking turns on a soapbox. Aside from that issue, the characters are engaging, and their stories will tug at your heart.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about mental health. Lots of people deal with different types of mental illness, and many forms of mental illness are diagnosed during the teen years. If you were concerned about yourself or someone you know, would you know where to ask for help?
Many young adult novels deal with physical or mental illness. What others have you read and liked? What's so compelling about these topics?
How do expectations and pressure to succeed play into your family dynamic? Do you ever feel like a failure for simply not being the best at things? What are you good at that might not fall into the common categories of academic or athletic achievement?
- Author: Francisco X. Stork
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Arthur A. Levine
- Publication date: January 26, 2016
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love coming-of-age tales and stories of mental illness
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.