Saturday, March 12, 2011

By The Time You Read This I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead
Daelyn Rice is broken beyond repair, and after a string of botched suicide attempts, she’s determined to get her death right. She starts visiting a website for “completers”— www.through-the-light .com.

While she’s on the site, Daelyn blogs about her life, uncovering a history of bullying that goes back to kindergarten. When she’s not on the Web, Daelyn’s at her private school, where she’s known as the freak who doesn’t talk.

Then, a boy named Santana begins to sit with her after school while she’s waiting to for her parents to pick her up. Even though she’s made it clear that she wants to be left alone, Santana won’t give up. And it’s too late for Daelyn to be letting people into her life…isn’t it?

National Book Award finalist Julie Anne Peters shines a light on how bullying can push young people to the very edge.

Daelyn has been demeaned, bullied, tortured and almost raped through her years in school.  For some reason, the teachers and principals always believe the other students, making her feel further bullied.  Daelyn was overweight most of her life and that was the main fodder for the bullies, but not all.  She tried to make her parents listen, but they just passed it off as kids being kids.  Her mom went on diets with her saying it would be "fun" and her father would sneak food to her at night.  She was sent to fat camp where they were tortured with emotional abuse and physical exercise beyond their limits.  She final went home when a boy died.  But that was before.  She has made a few attempts to take her life and failed.  The last attempt, pouring bleach and ammonia down her throat only resulted in a burned stomach lining and collapsed esophagus.  She has to wear a heavy neck brace, can't talk, and all her food has to be pureed.  She doesn't realize that she's become a frail, skinny, looking girl.  And that she's pretty.

Daelyn flies under the radar.  It's what keeps her safe and how she plans to slip from this world without anyone knowing her plans.  Her father monitors her computer so she can't get on suicide websites.  But she finds one that he can't trace and there she begins her countdown.  Twenty four days.  But a boy begins sitting on the bench with her while she waits for her parents to get her from school and he worms himself into her life without her permission.  Next thing she knows she's staying at his house because she can't be trusted to stay at home alone and her parents both have meetings when there's a half day of school.  Despite the fact that Daelyn can't talk, Santana talks a lot asking lots of questions.  She writes some answers down. Others she ignores.  Then she finds out something about Santana that seems to make her think.  She doesn't stop her countdown, but one day in chorus (she did it as a joke) a mean girl elbows her and a teacher moves her to a different section.  In a way, he sticks up for her.  And she ends up standing by the overweight girl.  And she's nice to the girl and the girl starts chatting to her and sits with her in another class.  Daelyn even writes a joke about the mean girl to the overweight girl and they laugh in chorus.  But she's not supposed to be making friends.  She's supposed to be letting go of everything.

Daelyn is not a pitiful character.  The neck thing gets to me, but that's a personal thing.  She's strong in her decision to end her life.  She isn't blaming anyone.  She blames herself.  She doesn't believe in God because he was never there for her before.  And she really thinks her parents will be better off without her.  She doesn't take her medicine that was seeming to work.  She really is strongly convinced that suicide is the answer.  The website is not one that talks you into doing it.  It ask questions that make you think about your choices.  It makes you wait those twenty four days.  It asks if you've thought of this and that. Have you decided how, where.  Have you decided who will find you etc.  But asks deeper questions like who will become you after you're gone.  Daelyn keys in no one, but can't help but think of the overweight girl in chorus.  Tougher questions come.

The author does a great job of portraying a girl in the depths of depression.  There is no feeling.  An absolute absence of any emotion.  Inside is dead.  That's how Daelyn is for most of the book until Santana starts to stir feelings in her.  She's a sympathetic character.  She doesn't whine about her life.  Maybe because she can't feel.  She just lays it out in flashbacks in black and white.  She doesn't even seem to hate the people that were so cruel to her.  She can't feel even that emotion.  But Santana is hard to ignore.  He's loud with bleached blond hair and colored tips and he seems to appear out of nowhere.  And like I said, he talks a lot.

I can't say I enjoyed this book because I don't enjoy reading about suicide.  But this was a very well written book on bullying, its effects on the victims and suicide.  It addressed a very tough subject with integrity.  People that attempt suicide aren't doing it for attention.  They're doing it to say, "Hey, I NEED HELP!"  They should be treated with respect and kindness and understanding. Not like a freak, a criminal, or a burden.  They should get help because the next time probably won't be an attempt.

Now there is no clear ending to the novel.  The author lets you decide for yourself what you think Daelyn did on the last day.  I know what she did and I have my proof to back it up.  But some others might see it differently.  But be it bullying or suicide this novel is a great lesson on both.

Heather in Sandwich


  1. Wow, that was such and insightful and thought provoking review---it brings to mind so many of the issues that kids face today and bullying is at an all time high. It's everywhere and the kids are creting slam books on the internet, etc... teen suicide rates are up. It's so sad.
    Thanks for such a wonderful review!

  2. Kristi- I don't even know what a slam book is, but with the internet and all these electronic devices, cyber bullying is so easy and anonymous. Daelyn was also cyber bullied, but she changed her IM name and didn't go back on line.

    It's sad that bullying has gotten so harsh to the point that kids want to kill themselves. I don't remember it being like that when I was a kid.


  3. Excellent review Heather. This reminds me of a friend of mine from high school, but, thankfully, he didn't blame himself and got past a lot of crap.

    This book would make me cry. I just know it.


  4. Kelsa- Unless you know someone that's committed suicide I don't know if it would make you cry. Or maybe there's something wrong with me. I didn't think there was a lot of emotion in it. Or, maybe I identified with her too much to be able to feel sorry for her or separate our feelings. Maybe someone else can read it and tell me if they felt emotional about it. My emotions have been out of whack lately.


  5. Wow this sounds like an intense read. I have known two people in my life who committed suicide so I shy away from books like this, but I do say I like the bullying angle. I might read it for the sake of that. I love the pretty cover. Terrific review!

  6. Julie- I felt detached reading it. Maybe that's a self preservation thing for me. I couldn't believe everything that had happened to her as a child, but believe me, I would have made sure someone knew what was going on. Her countdown to her death was so matter of fact it was so unemotional. And though she'd previously tried to kill herself, there is no suicide in this one. The author leaves it for you to decide if she did or didn't. It really is a good book to show the effects of bullying. But these kids were really cruel.


  7. Hmmm...I think I do want to read this one. I'm in nursing school and studying Mental Health right now, so books like this are right up my ally. However, knowing it was unemotional is a drawback.


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