genre: young adult contemporary fiction
Vicki is alive.
Even after choosing to take a bunch of pills to make the pain go away, she is still alive and in the psychiatric ward of the hospital where she is suddenly a part of a group of other teens who need help. From talks with these new friends and deep discussions with her new therapist, Dr. Desai, Vicki learns that the darkness she feels is more than sadness and that coming to a place of honesty with both her feelings and her experiences is the only way she is going to heal and survive.
Everyone has something to teach us, that's part of the message of this book. Everyone's grief or pain, every lesson they've learned the hard way that they are willing to share, all of those things can help us in our own journey to understand ourselves. I think The Memory of Light is an incredibly important book because it looks at mental illness with no glamour and no judgement, stripping it bare so that those who don't suffer can perhaps find some empathy for those who do. I read with a pen, underlining, especially, paragraphs that beautifully describe what it is to feel depression, to feel lost in your own head, as well as ideas and strategies to help your thoughts climb their way back out from the void. As a family member of several people who struggle with mental illness, I find any frank and open discussion of the subject to be a move in the right direction - especially if a teen who is hurting and doesn't understand why could read this text and gain some insight and maybe even seek help on their own.
There was one particular plotline that did feel unrealistic to me, based on my own experience, and that bugged me a little bit, although I liked the things that Vicki learned along the way. I liked how she grew and I liked that there wasn't some sort of finger-snapping miraculous recovery, that part felt real. I also liked that this isn't just a white-American story - Vicki is of Mexican heritage as are several of the other characters and that made the narrative more interesting for me also. Overall, a lovely piece of work about an intense subject.
I would hand this to a teen I cared about.