22. “The Burn Journal,” Brent Runyon

This is Runyon’s memoirs of a suicide attempt at fourteen and the next year of rehabilitative therapy. I found the first half of the book extremely difficult because I remember vividly what it felt like to be that sad. I had a pain in my chest while reading.

This book was very brave in that it not only talks about some very personal stuff (like, you know, setting oneself on fire), but family dynamics and, most personal of all, how shitty horribly depressed fourteen-year-olds are to their loving and concerned families. I was really pissed off at what a dick Runyon was to pretty much everyone he encountered in this part of his life but I think it was brave to show how the self-doubt and self-hatred spirals. I appreciated the really lackluster diagloge because it seemed so genuinely reflective of the not knowing what to say when it is clear someone is messed up (physically and emotionally, in Runyon’s case).

That said, I wish that there were more, even in just the afterword, about how a person goes from frequent suicidal gestures and one very dramatic attempt to an apparently well-adjusted, successful author. Though the memoir was really framed around Runyon’s school relationships, his return to mainstream school didn’t seem to be the end of the story. But who am I to argue with his experiences? I’m just always curious about that “what now?” That was (and is) the hardest part of my own mental illness. What do you do when you’re not in crisis mode? That’s the story I’m more interested in now.

Page count: 325
Page total: 5,388

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