Plot Summary: Cait Irwin was no typical thirteen-year-old. Every minute of every day she had a constant companion — the beast – her name for her depression. At first, partially due to the nature of the disease, she kept it to herself. She isolated herself and “the beast” was able to exert a lot of influence over her. But, eventually she sought and received help, and fought the beast, and won. Part memoir, part self-help book, part how-to book, and part comic book, Irwin takes readers on her journey through her words as well as her cartoon-like drawing of the beast and his teen victim. Not only does Irwin give practical suggestions for steps to take for teens struggling with depression, she most decidedly wants to offer those teens hope. The book ends with letters to the reader from some of Irwin’s family members about how they supported her and, in some cases, how they would have behaved differently.
Critical Evaluation: Depression is a real disease, but sometimes we do not want to acknowledge it. We do not want to look at it. We do not want to deal with it. We want to pretend it is not there. People with depression as well as those around them are sometimes more comfortable pretending “the beast” is not there, BUT, Irwin warns us, when “the beast” is ignored he grows. Telling her story, while at the same time speaking in general terms, could really help a depressed teen both not feel so alone and find ways to cope with her/his illness. In a dramatic, but straightforward and not overly emotional, way, Irwin paints a picture of depression as an illness. In fact, Irwin compares depression to a broken leg, both takes a teen out of full functioning, they might miss school time, sports practices, afterschool activities, even socializing with friends, but when the healing begins, these things can start to come back into a teen’s life again. Wise beyond her years, Irwin clearly wants to help other teens battle the beast of depression.
Reader’s Annotation: Thirteen-year-old Cait Irwin fights and conquers, “the beast,” depression and wants others to learn from and be inspired by her journey.
Information about the Author: At 13, Cait Irwin’s life was devastated by depression, but she fought her way out and shared her story with the world in Conquering the Beast Within: How I Fought Depression and Won…and How You Can, Too. In 2006, Irwin co-wrote Monochrome Days: A First-Hand Account of One Teenager’s Experience With Depression with two psychology experts.
Cait Irwin, now 31, is a working artist who expresses herself in many ways, including painting, wall murals and stenciling an original piece of artwork the side of a barn silo. She continues to be a strong suicide prevention advocate.
Genre: Non-Fiction, Issue, Illness, Mental & Emotional Problems
Format: Graphic Book
Topics Covered: Depression, Suicide, Mental Health
Curriculum Ties: Health, Mental Health, Biology
- Use one of the graphics from the book
- Talk about just how down Irwin became
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13-19
Challenge Issues: There are no obvious challenge issues associated with this book. Preparation for any challenge can include the librarian’s: reading of the book, adhering to the library’s collection development department, and possessing reviews of the book from well-regarded sources
Why is this book included? Many teens suffer from depression. This book gives teens hope as well as concrete suggestions for fighting depression. As the author, when she wrote it, was a teen herself, teens (and their parents) reading the book will be able to feel its authenticity. This book’s unique format makes it a great choice, as providing books that speak directly to depressed teens would be an excellent service for the library to provide
Cait’s website: http://sites.google.com/site/realityimpairedartworks/Home
Plot Summary: One night can change everything. At an elite boarding school in Vermont, students and administrators get caught up in a scandal that damages many lives. The scandal involves sex, underage drinking, and a video camera, almost always an ill-advised combination, and this time with dramatic and devastating consequences. When the headmaster gets the forbidden video, a sex tape involving four students: three boys on the school basketball team and one freshman girl, he struggles with what to do about it. He knows the power it has to ruin many lives as well as the reputation of the prestigious prep school, Avery Academy. And why did they do it? Who is responsible? How many people’s lives will be affected? Told from the multiple, unique perspectives of individual players in this drama, including the headmaster, the involved students, and their families, the story unfolds to reveal secrets, lies, and the circumstances behind that ill-fated evening.
Critical Evaluation: Gripping and thrilling, Testimony is a hard book to put down. when the teen sex tape is initially revealed, while shocking and disturbing, the depth of complexity because of its existence is not obvious at first glance. As Shreve weaves a web of betrayal, bad judgement, shame, and regret, questions arise, about what to do with the grey area presented in the book. Shreve’s characters are multifaceated. This complexity does not allow the reader, for example, to simply label the freshman girl on the sex tape a victim, as, by many accounts, she seemed a consensual participant. And yet, she was younger and outnumbered by the three basketball players on the tape, who were older and much physically larger than she. Shreve demonstrates that questions of morality and ethics are not always straightforward or obvious, but are nuanced and dependent on an individual’s particular perspective. She also demonstrates that a single mistake can have far reaching consequences. Overall, Testimony is entertaining, thought-provoking and great fodder for class discussions or book group meetings.
Reader’s Annotation: High school students, underage drinking, sex, and a video camera are an ill-advised combination. At an elite Vermont prep school these elements, in one evening, result in dramatic and devastating consequences.
Information about the Author: Award winning writer Anita Shreve has written 13 novels. The play The Laramie Project as well as William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying inspired Shreve to use multiple perspectives in her novel Testimony (from www.anitashereve.com).
Genre: Issues, Realistic Fiction
Topics Covered: Alcohol Abuse, Sexuality, Infidelity
Curriculum Ties: Health Science Topics: Sexuality, Substance Abuse, Suicide
Booktalking Ideas: Sienna’s first piece, Silas’ first piece
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 15-19 to Adult (Crossover)
Challenge Issues: Sexuality is discussed and sex acts are described, underage drinking, sexual abuse. In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.
Why is this book included? While it is technically an adult novel, Testimony is about events that happen at a high school. It is told from numerous characters’ perspectives, including many of the teens. The young voices are authentic, and the novel is gripping from start to finish.
(2009). Anita Shreve: Biography. Retrieved from http://www.anitashreve.com/