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dear caitlin, there are so many things that i want so badly to tell you but i just can’t.
Devastating, hopeful, hopeless, playful . . . in words and illustrations, Ingrid left behind a painful farewell in her journal for Caitlin. Now Caitlin is left alone, by loss and by choice, struggling to find renewed hope in the wake of her best friend’s suicide. With the help of family and newfound friends, Caitlin will encounter first love, broaden her horizons, and start to realize that true friendship didn’t die with Ingrid. And the journal which once seemed only to chronicle Ingrid’s descent into depression, becomes the tool by which Caitlin once again reaches out to all those who loved Ingrid–and Caitlin herself.
Rating: 3.5 stars
*Trigger Warnings: self harm, suicide, severe depression*
I’m not sure I really need to give you a recap of the plot here, because the synopsis pretty much tells you all you need to know: Caitlin’s best friend, Ingrid, committed suicide. Caitlin is struggling to come to terms with what happened when she comes across Ingrid’s journal that details the major depression that Ingrid experienced before doing what she did.
This isn’t really Ingrid’s story though. It’s Caitlin’s, honestly, which has become so interwoven with Ingrid’s that she can’t seem to figure out how to separate herself from what happened.
Death is… hard. Losing someone, no matter the circumstances, so completely and irrevocably… it’s the hardest thing to go through. To be sixteen years old and know that your best friend was suffering so heavily and that they are now gone… I can’t imagine. Every little moment is suddenly brought back to the forefront of your mind and you think, “If I had done that differently, would they still be here?” Would that one moment have made all the difference? The regret that Caitlin feels is so palpable. So real and authentic. The range of emotions I experienced during this read was vast.
Caitlin herself was not the most lovable character, but I didn’t find her entirely unlikable. She’s imperfect (and was even before Ingrid’s suicide) but we all are. Actually, the way that she responded to and handled trauma reminded me a lot of Melinda from Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. The story line was heartbreaking and a little chaotic at times but I’d venture to say that it was pretty realistic. I never felt as if the author was simply trying to fill the pages to take up time in between plot twists; instead, I felt that she was trying to make Caitlin’s stages of grief fit within the pages of such a short novel.
With all of this being said, I can’t fully explain to you why I didn’t love this book even when it made me feel so much. I thought that the representation felt very authentic and the grief was written so realistically that at times, I thought I felt it myself. I think that there is just something about Nina LaCour books that always leaves me wanting more. She is, admittedly, not my favorite author. We Are Okay was choppy and long and though it was really important it never felt complete to me. I think Hold Still was the same way. It’s hard to say whether or not that’s a good or a bad thing because I truly do believe that LaCour does it this way on purpose. In real life, we don’t always get happy endings. Mental illness isn’t actually as romantic and quirky as some YA novels make it out to be; it’s boring and miserable. So I know that LaCour writes her stories with that in mind, and while I genuinely appreciate it, I can’t change that feeling that something is missing.
However, I do still think that this book is worth the read, especially for anyone struggling with heavy depression themselves. It may also be worthwhile for someone who love’s someone (whether in a platonic or romantic way) who suffers from mental illness. Ingrid’s journal entries shattered my heart but they were very telling. If you do plan to pick this up, though, please prepare for the heavy talk of suicide. It can get very heavy at times.