Kirkus on My Beating Teenage Heart

Kirkus on My Beating Teenage Heart

My Beating Teenage Heart
Years ago I used to have a bunch of movie review guides and in one of them (I can't remember who the reviews were written by in the specific book I'm thinking of but it definitely wasn't Roger Ebert and I don't believe it was Leonard Maltin either) the worst reviews earned a turkey rating so instead of any stars next to the movie title there was just a tiny turkey image.

turkeyAnyway, it happens that the Kirkus review of My Beating Teenage Heart is essentially a turkey review. Kirkus didn't go so far as to include a turkey icon but I'll do them the favour of adding it here. I'm guessing it's the same Kirkus reviewer who didn't like The Lighter Side of Life and Death because they both have an obvious fondness for ending on zingers.

Here's the last sentence of The Lighter Side of Life and Death review by Kirkus:

“For a summer novel focusing on love and lust, this barely causes the temperature to rise.”

And here are the closing words of their My Beating Teenage Heart review:

“Beats only with a dull pulse.”

BAM! KAPOW! ZOWIE! Take that hapless YA writer!

Now, we're all aware that it's par for the course that you'll be subjected to negative reviews sometimes if you're writing or performing so, although I would've much preferred a positive review, it's not the thumbs down in itself that particularly bothers me about the Kirkus review. No, it's that reviewer refers to one of the main characters, seventeen-year-old Breckon who feels responsible for the death of his little sister, as sulking and moping.

To me, moping suggests something like the following scenario — a kid who breaks his father's camera (an expensive piece of equipment that he was forbidden to use) is grounded and therefore not allowed to go to the local amusement park with his friends the next day. He's sure they're having an amazing time on the scrambler and tilt-a-whirl while he shuffles around the house, looking bored and feeling sorry for himself for missing out. Personally I'd consider that moping and sulking. What I don't feel qualifies as 'sulking' and 'moping' are grieving, suicidal thoughts and clinical depression, you know? There's a crucial distinction to be made there and while we're talking about fiction here, what does this review say to someone who is genuinely experiencing deep grief and/or suffering from depression? That real people don't ever feel this way and if they do their emotions are overwrought? And so those references to moping and sulking in the Kirkus review, they bother me a great deal.

Below are some real life stats and info about suicide, depression and complicated grief that I think it's extremely important to be aware of and take seriously.

Click any of the below to be taken to the original source of the information.

The American Academy of Pediatrics describes the following signs that may signal that a depressed teen may be considering suicide:
If you suspect your teenage son or daughter is suicidal, get them professional help immediately. If you're a young person who is experiencing these feelings themselves or know someone who is please tell someone —a parent, teacher, counselor, someone who will be able to get help.

In Canada young people can call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868. Other Canadian suicide hotline numbers are available here.
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