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Suicide Notes

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I'm not crazy. I don't see what the big deal is about what happened. But apparently someone does think it's a big deal because here I am. I bet it was my mother. She always overreacts.

Fifteen-year-old Jeff wakes up on New Year's Day to find himself in the hospital. Make that the psychiatric ward. With the nutjobs. Clearly, this is all a huge mistake. Forget about the bandages on his wrists and the notes on his chart. Forget about his problems with his best friend, Allie, and her boyfriend, Burke. Jeff's perfectly fine, perfectly normal, not like the other kids in the hospital with him. Now they've got problems. But a funny thing happens as his forty-five-day sentence drags on: the crazies start to seem less crazy.

Compelling, witty, and refreshingly real, Suicide Notes is a darkly humorous novel from award-winning author Michael Thomas Ford that examines that fuzzy line between "normal" and the rest of us.

295 pages, Paperback

First published October 14, 2008

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About the author

Michael Thomas Ford

57 books693 followers
Michael Thomas Ford is the author of more than 75 books in genres ranging from humor to horror, literary fiction to nonfiction. His work for adult readers includes the best-selling novels What We Remember, The Road Home, Changing Tides, Full Circle, Looking for It and Last Summer, and his five essay collections in the "Trials of My Queer Life" series. His novel Lily was a Tiptree Award Longlist title and a finalist for both the Lambda Literary Award and the Shirley Jackson Award. He is also the author of the Sickening Adventures series of books featuring popular contestants from RuPaul's Drag Race.

As a writer for young adults he is the author of the novels Suicide Notes, Z, and Love & Other Curses, and under the name Isobel Bird he wrote the popular "Circle of Three" series. His work has been nominated for 14 Lambda Literary Awards, twice winning for Best Humor Book, twice for Best Romance Novel, and once for Best Mystery. He was also nominated for a Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award (for his novel The Dollhouse That Time Forgot).

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5 stars
12,696 (30%)
4 stars
14,232 (34%)
3 stars
10,242 (24%)
2 stars
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1,248 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,957 reviews
Profile Image for Wendy Darling.
1,638 reviews34k followers
July 17, 2011
Believe it or not, this is actually a really funny book. You wouldn't think so based on the title and the subject, but 15-year-old Jeff will have you laughing out loud throughout his story. He's in a mental hospital because he tried to slit his wrists on New Year's Eve, he's surrounded by kids who are clearly crazier than he is, and his doctor (nicknamed "Cat Poop") doesn't seem to understand that there's nothing wrong with him and won't leave him alone. Neither will the various patients who come and go who keep wanting to fool around with him in the wee hours of the night.

All Jeff wants to do is to do his time and to get home--partly because his sister Amanda might call dibs on his vacant room. And he does not want to talk about what happened with his best friend Allie, and how their relationship changed after she started dating her boyfriend Burke.

The novel is set up so that each chapter follows a single day in Jeff's 45-day treatment program. As the narrator, Jeff is hilariously dead-pan, self-deprecating, and easy to listen to. He is also kind, curious, confused, and sad beneath the typical teenage guy "I'm fine" attitude, but this takes a little while to come out. What's really interesting about the book being from Jeff's point of view is that the author reveals Jeff's avoidance and self-delusion without our main character really being aware of it, which is a pretty neat trick. And it's all all done with a deft hand and an unerring eye for genuine emotion.

I'm still undecided as to whether I should go into detail about what this book is actually about, but I will say that it's pretty important that readers who go into this story are fairly open-minded. In the middle of the drama involving the various patients at the hospital, there are frank discussions about (and depictions of) suicide, abuse, identity, sexuality, and self-loathing that are realistically and honestly portrayed. I did, however, appreciate the author's choice to make Jeff's secret both more complex and less of an extreme situation , as I think it's important that we see more stories from this standpoint. The confusion and embarrassment and hurt and fear can sometimes be enough.



Maybe I can convince my parents to move to France. No one in France cares if you tried to kill yourself. In fact, I think they like you better because you're all tragic.

It's not like I've never jacked off. I'm fifteen years old. Of course I do it. Any guy who says he doesn't is lying. That would be like having the coolest video game ever and never playing it. No one's that stupid.


The humor and the depth in this exceptionally well-written novel felt incredibly true to life and poignant. I worried about this boy and his denial about himself and I was anxious about whether the people in his life would accept him. We don't get to read stories like this nearly often enough, but they are such an important part of the human experience and I hope we'll see more of them.

I also really appreciated the hopeful and optimistic tone that this novel takes, however. It's nice to be reminded not only that there are kids out there who are hurting, but also that there are people out there who care.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
February 26, 2012
This book is an stealthy, cat-like emotional NINJA...

The story started off all whistling and nonchalant like it was going to be a light dose of fluffy teenage angst. Then, halfway through, it crept up behind me, tapped me gently on the feelings and slipped silently into my core to snuggle...Ninja style.

We start off meeting 15 year old Jeff who has just awoken on New Year’s Day after a botched suicide attempt to find himself involuntarily committed to a mental treatment facility for 45 days. Of course Jeff knows he’s not crazy. He doesn’t belong with the other “whack jobs.” His suicide attempt was just “something” he did. No reason behind it, he doesn't have problems...and he definitely does NOT want to talk about it.

He's your classic untrustworthy narrator.

So suicide....mental health facility...teenage drama...all that may have you thinking this book is just a big batch of the blues but that is not the case. Despite the premise, it is surprisingly light in tone and spiced throughout with humor. In fact, up until about the halfway point, I thought that the narrative might have been a tad too flippant and casual to the point where I was actually beginning to become a little disenchanted.

Then...KABLOOIE...enter the Ninja!!

Turns out the author had just set me up, waited for my guard to drop and then coldcocked me right in the blood pump.

Once the true reasons underlying Jeff’s teenage cry for help began to be fleshed and exposed to the light of conscious awareness, the narrative became deeply poignant and I felt a physical ache for Jeff and his all too human unwillingness to confront the root of his disconnect with life. Once the pieces started falling into place and the heart yanking had commenced, I gained a whole new perspective for the book...along with a serious appreciation for it.

This story has a lot to say and ended up being far more “important” than I anticipated going in to it. It’s not gorgeous literature and it isn’t the kind of novel you read to be carried away by the lushness of the prose or the clever turns of phrase. However, the writing is good and carries the story well...and the story is what this book is all about.

I don’t want to get into specifics of the central core of the narrative because it really snuck up on me and I thought this added to the power of my reaction to it when it occurred. I will just say that this is a book I would recommend both teenagers (despite some very frank language and sexuality) and their parents as I think Ford does an excellent job of realistically portraying teens struggling through life-changing moments.

Whether or not you personally relate to Jeff, I think this is a pretty universal story about what it means to be a teen and try to find your place in the cold, chaotic cacophony of the world.

I was also very impressed that the author did not stoop to overt sentimentality. The power of the novel owes nothing to gimmicks or any attempts at ham-handed manipulation of the reader’s emotions. No, the strength of the novel lies with the story itself. A story of honest reflections. A story very well told by Mr. Ford.

A surprisingly good book.

3.5 stars. Highly Recommended.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,540 reviews9,967 followers
March 21, 2019
UPDATE: $1.99 Kindle US 3/21/19

The way the book was going I thought I would be okay and not cry. I WAS WRONG!

The main character is Jeff, he wakes up in the psych ward and finds out he's going to be there for a bit of time. He tried to kill himself, but we don't find out until the end of the book why. I had a love/like relationship with Jeff, at times he would say things that got on my nerves but don't we wall do that?


I loved Sadie, she is a fellow inmate with Jeff and a few others. I enjoyed all of the characters. I loved little Martha, I felt so, so bad for her upon reading her story.

Jeff is a pretty comical dude. He says a lot of crazy stuff and he calls his Dr. , Cat Poop. His real name is Dr. Katzrupus. I would stick with Cat Poop.

Some of Jeff's random thoughts:

There are five of us. In the fun house, I mean. Well, five kids. There are a bunch of adult whack-jobs, too, but they have their own ward. We get our very own Baby Nuthouse all to ourselves. It's just like at Thanksgiving, when all the kids get sent to the little table in the corner. No turkey legs for us. Just the parts no one else wants. Like giblets.


"You're telling the people at my school that I'm here?" I said. I was already imagining Principal Matthews giving the morning announcement. "Today's lunch will be spaghetti and meatballs, cheerleading tryouts will be held second period in the gym, and Jeff is in the nuthouse."

But there are so many things going on with Jeff. He won't talk about it to anyone. He won't talk about it in group or with the doctor. He slowly hints at things to Sadie over time. They are really good friends in there.

Jeff has to come to accept himself and his sexuality and not let them get to him. With the help from family and his doctor he just might get through all of this. I really wish people were more accepting of people.

I've been thinking about that ever since. Am I lucky? Am I lucky that I didn't die? Am I lucky that, compared to the other kids here, my life doesn't seem so bad? Maybe I am, but I have to say, I don't feel lucky. For one thing, I'm stuck in this pit. And just because your life isn't as awful as someone else's, that doesn't mean it doesn't suck. You can't compare how you feel to the way other people feel. It just doesn't work. What might look like the perfect life---or even an okay life---to you might not be so okay for the person living it.

No truer words have been said. I can totally relate to Jeff in certain ways as I have some of the same mental issues. I thought this was a really good book.



MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
Profile Image for Nancy.
557 reviews786 followers
February 1, 2016
Posted at Shelf Inflicted

Suicide Notes has 45 chapters, each one representing a day in the life of 15-year-old Jeff, who is in the psychiatric ward of a hospital after his suicide attempt on New Year’s Eve.

Trust me; this story is not nearly as depressing as it sounds.

Jeff is quick, witty, sarcastic, and absolutely hilarious as he manages to evade any “real” discussion with his psychiatrist, Dr. Katzrupus, also known as Cat Poop, about what made him try to kill himself.

During his 45-day “sentence”, Jeff learns more about himself as he endures individual and group therapy, makes friends, experiences grief and loss, and comes to terms with his sexuality.

The story takes a more serious turn when Jeff gradually opens up to Cat Poop, and details of his family life, his friendships, the events that led to his suicide attempt, and the reason for it begin to unfold.

I really loved this story told from Jeff’s perspective and had a very difficult time putting it down. His thoughts, feelings, confusion and pain all rang true and brought me back to my own teenage years. I would highly recommend this story to teens that are gay, straight, or somewhere in between, and to adults who remember what it was like, or just want to understand.
September 6, 2022
"And just because your life isn't as awful as someone else's, that doesn't mean it doesn't suck. You can't compare how you feel to the way other people feel. it just doesn't work. What might look like the perfect life--or even an okay life--to you might not be so okay for the person living it."

Fifteen year old Jeff doesn't belong here...in the psych ward, that is. He'll tell you all about it. And yet, it is here he ends up after a suicide attempt, enrolled in a 45 day program where he is required to stay...ALL 45 days. Suicide Notes serves as Jeff's journal, where he tells you, the reader, about every day, every frustrating detail, every funny moment, and doesn't sugarcoat a thing. How exactly did he end up in this place? Will new relationships formed at the ward help to change the course of his life...or will a failure to open up keep him truly trapped...in the prison of his mind?

I came into this book knowing it had to do with mental health and suicide (naturally) but had no idea what to expect from Ford's writing. Apparently this was his first YA book...but you'd never know it! His writing feels very at home in the space, and the narration felt genuine and authentic. At first, I felt Jeff's acerbic teen snappiness was going to get old...but he is one of those characters who manages to be funny AND frustrating with just enough vulnerability shining through to get you emotionally invested. His narration had such an air of authenticity and I love how unapologetic Jeff is, through and through!

The book could have been heavy (and at times, certainly was!) but there is plenty of humor to keep you smiling, and while I couldn't help but shake my head at times at Jeff's interactions with his therapist, after a while, I really grew to care for him as a character. I was holding out for a positive outcome by the end of his 45 days with bated breath, and although I won't spoil anything, his journey was certainly satisfying. I also appreciated Ford's Author's Note at the end of the book and the Q&A portion to address some of the frequently asked questions he has gotten since the book first came out.

Humorous and heavy, emotional and thoughtful, if you enjoy YA books dealing with mental health in a frank and also funny way, come spend a couple hours 'talking' to Jeff...just don't let him get too far off topic! 😉

4 stars
Profile Image for C Steiner.
6 reviews
October 21, 2014
The saving grace of this book for me - what brought it up from one star to two - is that I needed to keep reading it in hopes that the writing would suddenly interest me. Books about mentally ill teens are rare enough, and books about LGBT youth are even scarcer. However, Suicide Notes was overall a disappointment on both fronts.

The book opens with 15-year-old Jeff arriving in a mental hospital on New Year's Day after a suicide attempt, reluctant to serve his 45-day "sentence". From the get-go, his voice is too immature to pass for 15. After nicknaming his psychiatrist Dr. Katzrupus "Cat Poop", he continues to giggle about it for the remaining 44 days. He gives similar nicknames to all the nurses on the ward and refuses to any therapeutic exercises the least bit seriously. As someone who has been through a similar program, albeit at a younger age, this was extraordinarily irritating to read, given the multitude of people who would like help like this but cannot receive it.

Throughout the novel, Jeff repetitively finds himself in sexually compromising situations with two other patients, a pixie-ish girl named Sadie and a football player named Rankin. Already, this is unrealistic, since they are in a four or five person psych ward and should be checked on far more often than would permit these encounters. In addition, these two people carry different tones for Jeff's narration. When Jeff is with Sadie, he describes the situations as more comfortable and reciprocated. He at least seems to want to be with Sadie, until he attempts to have sex with her and can't bring himself to do so. This throws him off and makes him more upset than necessary.

In contrast, his times with Rankin border on sexual assault. He is never the one to initiate a situation with Rankin, with the other boy climbing into his bed without permission or leading him into the showers and forcing him to perform oral sex. Jeff seems uncomfortable with all of these situations, and while he acts curious to find out, for example, what a penis looks like up close, he is disconnected when narrating these encounters. Afterwards, he always talks about how disgusting he feels, or how he wishes it had been a dream.

Some day in the late 30s, we find out that the reason that Jeff attempted suicide is because he realized he was gay when developing and then acting on a crush on his best friend's boyfriend. This caused her to break off her friendship with him, and due to his negative attitude towards queer men in general, start to hate himself and deny who he was. When he finally admits that he is gay, he justifies it with his encounters with Sadie and Rankin. He says that since he was unable to have sex with Sadie, it showed that girls were not for him, and that his sexual encounters with Rankin felt "right", despite the sickly feelings that accompanied them. At this point, I had to put the book down and think about what was happening. Somehow, hardly consensual sexual encounters felt "right"? Regardless of whether or not Jeff was gay, this is not the right message for any book to send.

My final problem with this was how Jeff reacted to Sadie's suicide at the end of the book. He is momentarily shocked, but then mentions it for another four pages total at best in the last few days of the book. His sexuality somehow overshadowed the fact that his closest friend, in the ward and probably in the world at that point, killed herself out of nowhere. Sadie seemed like she would have remained a part of his life once they had left the ward, and he barely thinks of her once she is gone, a highly unrealistic reaction.

Overall, I would not recommend this book unless a reader was extremely desperate for books about mental illness and/or LGBT youth. It read like a poor attempt at replicating Ned Vizzini's It's Kind Of A Funny Story, and was not worth the time I spent on it.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for ✦❋Arianna✦❋.
790 reviews2,529 followers
June 9, 2015
4 Stars!!

"That sounds so weird: kill yourself. It makes it sound like you tried to murder someone, only that someone is you. But killing someone is wrong and I don't think suicide is. It's my life, right?"

“Suicide Notes” it was like nothing I’ve expected. Despite the title and despite the blurb this was a quite entertaining read. It’s a YA novel/coming of age/realistic fiction that was interesting and refreshing and hold my interest not only with its plot, but with its main character as well.

The story is about Jeff a 15 years old boy, who after he tried to slit his wrists on New Year’s Eve he’s committed by his parents in a hospital. He has to spend 45 days in a psychiatric ward and he’s not happy at all. After all he’s not crazy. At least not like the other kids there, who seem to be nuts. He has to participate in individual counselling sessions with Dr. Katzrupus (whom he nicknames Dr. Cat Poop) and in group counselling with some of the other patients. Jeff is not depressed. He just only to forget about ‘this incident’ and go home. While he tells everyone that he doesn’t have any reason for what he did, everyone there wants to talk about it.

This novel is not only about suicide. It’s also about family dysfunctions, abuse, accepting who you are and accepting your sexuality. It has 45 chapters, every chapter representing a day in Jeff’s new program. I really liked how the author structured the book. It goes without saying there’s a reason for it. While the first half of the story is pretty light for a book with a premise like this one and even funny at times, the second part is more ‘serious’, emotional and intense. I really liked how balanced the story was. ���Suicide Notes” was a very refreshing read and pretty addicting. I really had to know more about Jeff and why did he want to commit suicide.

In the first half we met the other patients in the psychiatric ward. Their voices are different, unique and like Jeff’s felt real. In the second half we get to know Jeff better, his relationship with his sister (I loved them together and their banter) and his parents, his relationship with his best friend Allie and why he wanted to commit suicide.

Jeff was a very vivid character. His voice was so honest and his growth as character is fantastically done. I loved his characterization. From the beginning he’s very easy to like. He’s funny, witty and IMO mature for his age. He can be sweet and gentle, thoughtful and compassionate. At first he’s confused, then angry, but as the story progresses he realizes he can’t go home. At least not yet. I have to say I loved his sarcasm and his cynicism. His character felt real and I’m sure it will feel relatable for some readers. There were moments when I LOL with Jeff, but there were also moments I just wanted to give him a hug. I really felt for him at times and I was really happy for when he started realizing that it’s ok to be different.

If you’re looking for a YA novel that deals with important sensitive topics, written in 1st POV from a male’s perspective I really recommend this one!
Profile Image for AMEERA.
277 reviews320 followers
January 4, 2018
I really liked the write style feel like you're reading book of 2018 not 2008 funny book i really enjoyed 💜💜✨’
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,521 reviews9,015 followers
December 20, 2009
Jeff isn't crazy. He isn't like all the nut jobs in the psych ward he finds himself in. He doesn't use drugs to get high, and he doesn't have an eating disorder that makes him throw up his latest meal every ten seconds. However, he does have bandages covering his wrists like a mummy and he does recall getting into an argument with his best friend Allie, and he's pretty sure it had something to do with her boyfriend Burke. While Jeff spends the next forty-five days in the hospital under a special care program, he slowly starts to meet new people and realize why he's there in the first place.

Finally, a book worth of comparison to What They Always Tell Us. The two books are completely different, but they gave me that special feeling you get sometimes when you read a really great book, like "why do I spend all this time reading subpar books when I could be reading books like this?" That's the feeling I got when I read Suicide Notes.

Even though the title and dust jacket are a bit dry and seem to be a typical YA fare Suicide Notes is completely different. It's edgy, honest, real, and provocative. Jeff is snide, sarcastic, and funny as a whip. I laughed out loud various times in the book due to really hilarious scenes and also because Jeff mentions a wide variety of objects and ideas that really come out of nowhere. What makes this even better is that Ford kept me laughing even though the entire plot itself was supposed to be depressing. He writes it well enough to keep me on the edge of my seat and wanting more.

Actually, it only took me about three-four hours to read Suicide Notes. The small pages might have contributed to that a little bit, but I think it's because the book is just compulsively readable. I seriously could not put it down, even when I felt my treadmill calling my name. I just had to know what happens to Jeff, what he's going through, the next big event. The plot speed was just right - it moves fast, but nothing is rushed.

One more thing great about this book is that Jeff was an awesome character, inside and out. Although you might figure out the big "secret" ahead of time, the other plot devices kept me occupied and yearning for more. Jeff never became out of character for no reason, and just the emotional framework of his perspective really drew me in. I would highly recommend this book to basically everyone, but there are just a few scenes I know older adults or really strict librarians would frown upon (even though they don't take awhile from the book at all).
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,982 reviews1,992 followers
November 8, 2020
Real Rating: 2.5* of five

All the points are for the ending, which is entirely worth the long, tedious, acne-inducing slog to get there.

Seriously...does the world NEED to hear about adolescence anymore? Is there something we missed, as adults, while going through that training ground for evil demons called "junior high" (that's middle school for the under-fifty set)? If so, is it something that we actually *need*?

Basically...no more. No no no. Poke me with a fork, I'm done.
Profile Image for Rachael.
154 reviews2 followers
October 18, 2008
I'll say it flat out: I detested this book. If I had read it ten or fifteen years ago, I may have thought it was okay, but this isn't the early nineties anymore. Gay kids don't always have to hate themselves and try to commit suicide. Even if it does actually happen sometimes in real life, isn't it better to STOP writing books about how troubled and messed up gay kids are, and focus instead on writing books about how gay kids lead, I don't know, happy and productive lives? Think Alex Sanchez, David Levithan, Brian Sloan, James Howe, etc. All of these authors write fairly realistic portrayals of gay teens without drawing on the old 'being gay makes you want to kill yourself' stereotype.
Add to this fundamental problem of an outdated storyline some fairly mundane, if not downright weak, writing, a main character who is not particularly interesting (generic teenage standoffish behavior seems to be his only real personality trait), and a 'mystery' that was obvious within the first couple of chapters, and you come up with a book that is pretty lackluster.
And then it gets downright offensive. I don't know about you, but when if I were to wake up to a naked person in my bed touching me sexually, and I said 'don't' . . . that sounds like assault. How can an author write a book for teens that includes this type of behavior without making it a point to state that it is basically rape? It's downright irresponsible.
Having read some of Ford's adult novels, I know that he has talent as a writer. However, being able to write well for adults doesn't always translate into writing well for children or teens. In this case, he failed.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Limonessa.
300 reviews510 followers
September 19, 2011
What struck me most about this book - and unsettled me, to be honest - is the brutality of it, sugarcoated by Jeff's self-deprecating irony, witticism and sarcastic outlook on adolescence. He is one of those characters I particularly appreciate in teen lit for their no-nonsense attitude, for just telling things how they are. An honest, non-emo voice.

The themes approached in this book are not light, despite seemingly narrated in a light-hearted way: teen suicide, familial dysfunctions, personal identity. The story starts with Jeff waking up in the psych ward of an hospital, after having attempted suicide. He's supposed to spend 6 weeks being treated there and to understand the reasons why he hurt himself.
Despite being told in 1st person POV, Jeff is in self-denial and does not want to acknowledge the origin of his problems or what really happened that led to him taking such a definitive and desperate action. So we, the readers, are completely left in the dark about pretty much everything that took place before him being hospitalized.
But slowly, as Jeff gradually comes around and faces the bitter consequences of what he's done, we discover bits and pieces of the puzzle that eventually will give him, and consequently us, realization of his real problem. I know this sounds really vague but it's better to discover Jeff's motives by reading this book. I really liked this narrative strategy, it spurs the reader to go on keeping the interest high and makes the discoveries all the more dramatic.

Aside from the heavy theme of the book, be warned that there are some sex scenes which put this book in the more adult section of the YA genre. Pretty graphic and raw, too. Yet, I wish this book were read by all teens and I hope by the time my kids will grow up I will still remember this book, so that I can give it to them to read.
Highly recommended.
Profile Image for linh.
2 reviews18 followers
February 7, 2016
i left this book throughly disgusted. i wish i trusted my instincts and just dropped the book entirely a few chapters in but i trudged through for some inane reason. sucks, because the premise was so interesting.

where do i start? maybe with the narrator, jeff, who is probably one of the most immature, bland, and whiny little shits i've ever had the displeasure of reading about. he calls dr. katzrupus "cat poop" in nearly every chapter of this book: he finds that funny for /over a month/. he messes with said doctor, who is trying to help him, as if that will prove that he doesn't need to be in the psych ward. he has no defining points of character other than his petulant teenage anger and disdain.

speaking of disdain...he regards his fellow patients in the psych ward as "crazies"/"nutjobs"/basically abhorrent because they're not "normal" like him, lolololol! there's one scene early on in the book where one of the patients "snaps" and goes into a giggling loop about little piggies, which jeff and sadie gladly mock, even after said patient is taken away to a more permanent care ward. way to perpetuate hate of anyone neurodivergent?

the only other patients he really treats like a fellow human being would be...sadie (pixie-ish), bone (??arguable, he barely shows up except to leave) and a young, mostly-mute kid whose name I can't remember because she came off as a morality pet to redeem jeff's jerkassery instead of her being... an actual person. even with her as jeff's morality pet he doesn't ever apologize for being an ass, or pointedly go out of his way to treat anyone better? nice try

about halfway through the book, a guy named rankin arrives: long story short, he coerces jeff into sex at least twice and comes close to penetrating him in bed while jeff is sleeping before he gets found out and shipped out. JEFF DOES RECIPROCATE AT ALL. he notes feeling sick, disgusted, etc afterwards with rankin. BUT IT'S NEVER CALLED OUT AS RAPE, SEXUAL ASSAULT, ETC. in contrast, him trying to have sex with sadie was consensual, he backed out of his own accord and sadie let him.

around the end, jeff that the times rankin assaulted him made him rediscover/remember/come to terms with/etc that he's gay? because it felt more "right" than with sadie?? what??? what???? . it would've been so easy to either 1. not make it rape 2. point out that it's rape or 3. not put it in at all?

did i mention that when sadie killed herself, jeff barely spends any time mourning her? thinking about her? after the initial shock he barely brings it up, which is why i only remembered that just now. way to go

tldr; this book was full of
- rampant ableism
- immature humour
- annoying characters
- poorly handled rape, coercion, suicide

0 stars if i could
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for LenaRibka.
1,436 reviews418 followers
June 15, 2020

“If you ever manage to become perfect, you have to die instantly before you ruin things for everyone else.”

It was my third book by Michael Thomas Ford and he didn't disappoint me. The first one, The Road Home, a contemporary romance about coming home with a nice unexpected twist of mystery in it, has sparked my interest for his works. The second one, Full Circle, an amazing epic story of love, friendship and male bonding, touched me greatly and made me feel and think about even days after I'd finished it. Probably my favourite of this author for now and for sure one of my favourite books of this year.

And now Suicide Notes, a YA novella. Totally different story. And you know what? Michael Thomas Ford wrote it with a such skilful feeling of lightness and freshness as if he has never written nothing else in his life than YA books.

The title, SUICIDE NOTES, immediately reminded me of the epistolary novels of Franz Kafka and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. And I would have probably skipped it if my gaze hadn't incidentally caught the genre that 34 readers(at least it was so many at that moment) defined this book into. Humor. What?! Me: Is it supposed to be funny?!

Now I know-YES. IT IS FUNNY. But not only.

Don't MISINTERPRET the title!

I have always believed that some serious things are more impressive if they are told not with an iron face. And I'm glad that the author chosen this form of telling. I LOVE the characters that have a sense of humour, I adore the authors who can skilfully use their unique sense of humour as an ingenious tool in their books. Michael Thomas Ford is one of them.

Fifteen-year-old Jeff wakes up on New Year's Day to find himself in the hospital. After he tried to commit suicide. So it is not a story that ends with a suicide. The story begins AFTER he successfully FAILED to commit suicide. (OMG, can I say it this way?)
He HAS to spend 45 days in the psychiatric ward. With another patients. But Jeff is not crazy. The other-yes, they're nuts, but not Jeff. All he wants is to get out of there and forget this incident. He is not going to do this stuff like a group therapy, these silly psychotherapeutic sessions and answering the stupid questions! But he can drive his doc up the wall and force him to threw him out. He is here by mistake, it is as clear as day.
It is what he believes. But is it really so? And WHY did he cut his wrists?

45 days of the Jeff's life(I have to say here-his POV is hilarious, sarcastic, thoughtful and simply brilliant!), 45 chapters of pure reading enjoyment(believe me, this book is better than 10 blockbusters together!), 295 pages that won't leave your indifferent(if you have your heart on the right side, of course.)

I laughed LAUD, I cry quietly, I finished it with a broad smile on my face.

I see this book not only as a very entertaining read, it is a tiny but significant contribution to a very serious topic. I've read some reviews, and I can't understand the statements like "nobody has to kill himself because of being gay in our modern time." Right. We've achieved a lot in this direction, we made a big progress towards considering GAY people as a normal phenomenon of our everyday life (DID WE?).

The truth is - it's easy to talk how easy it is to be smart if you're 40 years old. Jeff is 15. And in spite of his big mouth, he is just an insecure teenager who feels and knows that he is different, but who doesn't have enough life experience and guts to make the right conclusions and decision to handle perfectly all those different and painful situations in his teeny life.

We have to make our own experiences, bad and good, the ones that will make us deliciously melting when we're 80(if it is possible at all) and the the ones that could be the only positive points on our "+ and - of Alzheimer's disease"-list.
Besides this book is not about a sudden realizing of being gay.

Anyway, it was not the main reason for WHY Jeff did IT to himself.

But I'm talking too much. Ignore me.
Just read this book.

And make me happy loving it.

Please, love it.

Thank you.
Profile Image for Kyle.
379 reviews557 followers
February 15, 2021
Actual rating: 1.5 (if only for the author’s note at the end)

I simply had too many issues with this book.
And I really don’t care enough to list them all.
So, shortest book review I’ve written as of late:
I fucking hated it.
Profile Image for Maria.
106 reviews67 followers
June 4, 2020
Y'all ever read a book and then regret reading it? Not that you hate it but you just can't stop thinking about it and you can relate it, can feel all the emotions the characters went through. This is that kinda book. The one that leave you with heartache. I don't think I'll ever forget this one. I love the characters and I love the tune, one minute I was laughing and the next having an emotional fit. Sadie's death, Jeff, Martha and Alice's agonies, God! All this pain in the world!!! So many miserable souls. I wanted to hug them all!!
I hope everyone struggling out there find help and way outta their sufferings.

Here are some of my favorite excerpts:

“No one ever tells you that when your heart breaks, you can feel it. But you can. It feels like something has crumbled inside you and the pieces are falling into your stomach. It hurts more than any punch ever could. You stop breathing, and for a while you can’t remember how. When you finally do, it feels like your throat has closed up, like you’re trying to suck air through a straw.”

“I really do think I was flying around in space, though. At least for a little while. I remember thinking that I’d finally find out whether anyone lives on Mars or not. Then it was like someone grabbed me by the foot and yanked me down, back toward Earth. I remember screaming that I didn’t want to go, but since you can’t make noise in space, my voice was just kind of eaten up.
Now that I know where I am, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t be better off just being dead.”

“I just went on being me my whole life, until one day I realized that all those superheroes were doing was fighting themselves, and that getting to breathe underwater or shoot fire from your fingers didn’t really make up for being screwed up in the first place. It was just the consolation prize—you got the great costume and the invisible jet for being a loser in everything else...I guess I just want my invisible jet”
Profile Image for Melany.
539 reviews82 followers
January 28, 2022
Such a beautifully written book. It's deep and triggering to some people due to the topics discussed. However, I found it intriguing and motivating. I think the message I got from it was we are a little messed up, but the best thing you can be... Is be your complete true self.
Profile Image for Natalie Monroe.
596 reviews3,590 followers
October 29, 2014
4.5 stars

"That sounds so weird: kill yourself. It makes it sound like you tried to murder someone, only that someone is you. But killing someone is wrong and I don't think suicide is. It's my life, right?"

There was a period in my life when all I read were issue-driven contemporaries. Eating disorders, suicides, rape... the works. But then all that excess of Jodi Picoult and Laurie Halse Anderson made me seriously depressed and I moved on to the bestselling Paranormal Romances at the time. Boy, was that a whole different bucket of depression.

Let's hear it for bad life choices.

Suicide Notes is unlike any YA issue-driven contemporary I have ever read. For one, it's funny.

""We need to run a few tests," he said


"I'm not so good at tests," I said instead. "Especially pop quizzes. Could I maybe have some study time first? I wouldn't want to bring the curve down for the whole class or anything."

I laughed more while reading this book than Tina Fey's autobiography, which, by the way, isn't all that funny. The MC, Jeff, is delightfully snarky. Usually for these kinds of books, the main character's thoughts are scattered and disorientated and often, you feel as though you're sloughing through of a swamp of purple metaphors. Or they're so filled of self-deprecating hatred, you cringe. It's written in purple prose too, by the way. It seems to be a general rule.

Jeff isn't like that. He basically blows all the preconceptions and stereotypes of suicidal people out of the water. He doesn't write sad poetry or listen to death metal. He wasn't bullied regularly and has good relationships with his family. He's simply your average sarcastic teenage boy (can I get a what-what for Percy Jackson?), who happens to be suicidal. Then one day, something happened and he broke. Parents will freak about this, but sometimes it just happens without warning. You can insure against a car crash and a fire, but you can't insure against life.

The writing is simple, but effective. It actually feels like the narrator is talking to you and telling you the story, and it's a writing style I appreciate. At the same time, it contains snippets of the sort of unexpected metaphors you'd find in The Book Thief.

“And anyway, the truth isn't all that great. I mean, what's the truth? Planes falling out of the sky. Buses blowing up and ripping little kids into millions of pieces. Twelve-year-olds raping people and then shooting them in the head so they can't tell. I can't watch the news anymore or look at the papers. It's like whoever sits up there in Heaven has this big bag of really crappy stuff, and once or twice a day she or he reaches in and sprinkles a little bit of it over the world and makes everything crazy, like fairy dust that's past its expiration date.”

“One time Allie and I skipped school and went to see this foreign film called Los Diablos, where these villagers found a glowing blue ball and peeled pieces off of it to see what was inside. Only the ball was really radioactive, and they all died from the poison. I think that’s what happens when you look too deep inside for the truth. The poison comes out, and you die, even though you have beautiful glowing pieces of blue truth in your fingers.”

I like metaphors, but believe they should be used sparingly.

The mystery of why Jeff decided to kill himself is handled very well. It's not like in The Maze Runner, where they dangle the truth tantalizingly in front of your face, but never let you know. It's done right, with foreshadowing and hints and you can piece it together along the way. I admit I "Yes!"ed when I found out my deduction was correct.

The ending left too many loose threads for my taste though. There were so many questions left unanswered: What happened to Rankin? Why was Bone in the ward? What will become of Martha? Will Jeff Should I have spaghetti or McDonald's for lunch tomorrow?

Sorry, got distracted. I typing this before lunch and there's chocolate cake in the fridge.

Bottom line: Suicide Notes is amazing and unconventional. Now go read it while I raid the kitchen. Table manners optional.
Profile Image for Anomaly.
523 reviews
May 21, 2022
TRIGGER WARNING for suicide, ableism, sexual assault, victim blaming, incompetent mental health professionals, body shaming, eating disorder shaming, mental illness shaming, homophobia (internalized and otherwise), and extremely poor handling of LGBT+ concerns. This warning, by the way, is far more than the book offers - though, of course, a couple are obvious from the title and blurb. I will be discussing several of these things, and the book contains all of them.

Pardon any incoherent moments, as I had to remove over 7,000 characters worth of review and rewrite around that to fit the Goodreads size limit.

* * * *

This book is... not good.

When I set out to make this review, I wanted to not be "mean," but I've come to the conclusion that if I'm going to be honest, then I have to lead with how bad I think the book is. I've been expecting this verdict since the second chapter, wherein the staff of a hospital's psychiatric ward actively refused to tell a teenage patient where he was yet also used shady, gaslighting language like "I think you know why you're here" when he discovered his location and asked about it. I knew this would be a downhill slide into a garbage heap, yet I foolishly clung to the trash can lid and rode it like a sled all the way to the city dump.

Why? Because teenage mental health is important to me. It should be important to everyone, of course, but I've been there. I've been on the brink, I've struggled with mental illness since I was barely even a teenager - if not possibly before I was first assessed. I never got to have the extensive help I most certainly needed when I was young and I read for a sense of escapism most of the time, so I was hoping for something I could vicariously experience that through. I wanted to see a world where it's easier for troubled teens to get the help they need - where no matter how low the main character starts, or how deeply he's in denial of needing help, he ultimately comes around to accept that he can't keep lying to himself. I wanted to see his path from being an ableist little turd to realizing the error of his ways, because that would've been cathartic for me.

In many ways, this tiny shred of misplaced optimism and the gnawing urge to discover why the main character, Jeff, tried to commit suicide kept me reading even when I knew the ride wasn't going to be fun. Surely, I believed, it would all be worthwhile in the end.

Yeah, no. It absolutely wasn't a worthwhile journey. If it can even be called a journey. Jeff's character development could be measured with a micrometer! In fact, the symbol for a micrometre is μm, which looks like "um," which is the perfect way to describe my reaction when I reached the end of this book. Just... "um." The middle had an awful lot of anger involved, which I'll explain later, but by the end I just felt at a loss for words.

I can see what the author attempted to do with this book. He mentions, in the acknowledgements and attached Q-and-A section at the end, that he wants to bring awareness to the struggle of young people with mental illness. That's a noble cause, sure. But this just ain't it, chief. This is less a story about awareness, acceptance, or healing and more a story about a troubled teen deep in denial, lashing out with harsh judgement, ableist remarks, and outright slurs at anyone else remotely like him. Jeff never stops referring to the others as "whack-jobs" or "nutcases," just decides eventually to class himself amongst them. And the one or two times that someone calls him and his friends out for being needlessly cruel when they mock others' mental illnesses, it's shoved aside and treated as that person being a buzzkill. You see, that's "just how they cope" and therefore it's totally okay. (It really isn't, and it pisses me off that I have to say that because the book itself doesn't.)

But I think the biggest problem I have with this book, if I had to pick only one, is that the author's cluelessness drips off every page. From Jeff's narrative voice sounding far younger than intended to the fact he never actually seems depressed or suicidal, I didn't need the Q-and-A to inform me that the author hasn't been low enough to contemplate or attempt killing himself. From the completely incompetent way the psychiatric ward staff in this book handle their patients to the nearly-impossible circumstances which arise (more on those later), I didn't need the Q-and-A to inform me that the author has never been in a psych ward. Even the one thing he mentions having experience with - seeing a therapist - is very heavily fictionalized in this book to the point I'd have guessed a cursory knowledge at best, with a heavy focus on television and movies.

Is it bad that he has no first-hand experience? Of course not! But it's bad that the lack of experience is so glaringly obvious, suggesting a complete lack of research. And when dealing with such heavy topics, especially in a book aimed toward a teenage audience, that's something I feel is just plain inexcusable.

I know I must sound harsh right now, but we're approaching the stuff that really ground my gears until the little metal pegs on them snapped off and my brain was left uselessly churning in its own fury. I keep trying to be polite and articulate, but it's difficult when I could save so much time and frustration making a list of things that this book gets right. In fact, for funsies, I'm going to make that list right now.

01. There are absolutely people like Jeff out there, who and refuse to admit they have mental health issues, to the point they lash out at anyone who says they need help.

02. Some suicidal individuals genuinely do go on to complete the act after being saved. (No, I'm not referring to Jeff, but rather to another character.) Some people "can't be saved" in that they're unwilling to help others help them, keep floundering in denial, and eventually give up when others think they're okay. It's horrible, and it sucks, but it's accurate.

03. This one quip was genuinely hilarious and lowkey relatable: “What’s love, anyway?” I said. “I think it’s just something greeting-card makers made up and try to get us to believe in. Between you and me, I’d rather have an Xbox.”

04. There is nothing wrong with being homosexual, and teenagers are indeed old enough to be aware of their preferences.

05. The bond and banter between Jeff and his younger sister, Amanda, felt quite genuine for siblings - especially a pair where the younger sister looks up to her older brother as a sort of role model.

06. Everything about Sadie felt genuinely well-written and believably handled, other than her last appearance. Her personality actually seemed like a teenage girl and she actually seemed to be troubled.

That's it, unfortunately, and I really had to stretch a bit for one third of those.

Now that I've got that out of the way, it's time for the negative bits. Let's start simple by dipping our toes into the least problematic water first. Namely: I hate the narrating voice. Despite being fifteen, Jeff reads more like the preteen protagonist of a middlegrade novel. His sentences are basic, his self-awareness almost non-existent, his rebellion overdone, and his 'humour' just plain juvenile. The near-constant 'zingers' are exhausting. There's being a smartass as a coping mechanism, and then there's Jeff. He's the epitome of amping 'bratty child who needs to be grounded for life with their mouth taped shut' all the way to eleven... and then a little bit further, until the dial falls off and the amp explodes in a shower of electric sparks.

In fact, for most of the book, he calls his therapist by the cringey, childlike, rude nickname of "Cat Poop" - which appears 183 times, according to my search. For comparison's sake, within the CloudLibrary app there are only 184 pages of actual story. That means this book about a topic as serious as teen suicide says 'poop' at least once per page. In practice, it appears clustered instead with several instances per each page where it appears. Discussing a suicide attempt? Cat Poop! Discussing a sexual assault? Cat Poop! Trying to figure out how to ? You gessed it: Cat Poop! Jeff doesn't grow out of this until the final few pages of the book, and by then the one instance of using the right name feels more like the author remembering that it's an easy way to indicate character growth without showing the actual path thereof.

Similarly, the writing style is inconsistent and annoying. It swaps between past and present tense without context or warning, within the same scene where everything should be happening simultaneously. I suppose it may be an attempt to make the narrative conversational, since each chapter covers one day of Jeff's treatment, but it just doesn't work for me. It feels slightly like a diary, but Jeff is too obtuse and secretive about his actual thoughts and feelings for it to be inner reflection. So, what, then? Is the reader just some random stranger who exists outside the group yet also paradoxically within it, being told about everything that happens? It doesn't make sense, thus the inconsistency doesn't work.

Here are some examples which also serve to show how insufferable and juvenile Jeff is in general:

Excerpt 01

Cat Poop introduced me by saying, “Everyone, this is Jeff.” And they all went, “Hi, Jeff.” Only their voices all sounded the same, like zombies mumbling, “Mmmm, brains,” and nobody really looked at me. I didn’t say anything. It’s not like I’m going to be here long enough to make friends.

Excerpt 02

This is my one-week anniversary at Club Meds. Instead of a party, my big surprise was that my parents came to see me. Or they came because someone told them to, at least. Anyway, when I walked into Cat Poop’s office for what I thought was going to be my usual brain-picking session, there they were.

Excerpt 03

Juliet told us that she’s here because she has an eating disorder. I don’t know about that. I mean, she’s not exactly skinny. I asked Sadie if she’s ever heard Juliet yakking up dinner in the bathroom, and she said she hasn’t. So we think maybe Juliet’s got a bunch of other problems she just hasn’t told us about. Yet. I’m sure she will. But really I don’t care.

Excerpt 04
“Stop making fun of her,” she said, really softly. “Just stop. It’s not funny.” Then she sat down again and looked at the floor.

Maybe she had a point. But come on. Someone yelling about being a little piggy going wee-wee-wee all the way home is kind of funny when you think about it. Sure, I feel bad for Alice, but that’s no reason to go all serious. You’ve got to laugh at stuff.

For me, the writing style and Jeff's narrating voice in general are just too much to handle - an absolute chore to get through despite, paradoxically, being so simplistic that it's a quick read.

Beyond that, I take issue with the complete incompetence written into the psych ward staff. On the minor end of the spectrum, Dr. Katzrupus ("Cat Poop") gets a haircut after Jeff pointedly teases him about having long hair - and, in a later incident, shaves his goatee after similar taunting. Letting a little bully win by dragging you down over your appearance is healthy and professional and not at all reinforcing his boorish behaviour, of course. (The worst part is how nobody ever calls Jeff out on this and he brags internally about how he tore down "Cat Poop" into changing appearance.)

The staff also don't seem to monitor what these minors with mental health issues watch on television in the middle of the night when they should be sleeping. And even though one of them is admitted for trying to drown herself, all of the patients are allowed uncontrolled access to gendered public restrooms with built-in shower stalls at all hours. In what alternate universe, pray tell, are there group showers in a hospital with unfettered access for the mentally ill patients?! That isn't even a thing in a traumatic brain injury ward, because it's unsafe in so many ways and generally a violation of privacy. Reading those parts felt an awful lot like the author just wanted an excuse to include but within the confines of a psych ward setting. If, for some reason, it isn't safe to have individual bathrooms in the patients' rooms, they're also not going to be trusted with public restrooms that include showers. That's just... no.

But I digress. Further issues include that there's seemingly no curfew and no real supervision. Seriously, these kids are constantly going into each other's rooms unsupervised in the dead of night, despite it being explicitly against the rules, and there are no security cameras or anything of that sort to alert staff that it's happening. They're not supposed to hold hands or show affection to one another for obvious reasons, but it's barely enforced. The 12-year-old girl is allowed to hold the 15-year-old boy's hand, but the girl who's his same age isn't. And one girl is allowed to proclaim in group therapy that she's dating another patient, despite his obvious discomfort and insistence that it isn't true.

There's no mention of protective clothing, either, which I could forgive. Do we really need to hear about a lack of shoelaces and belts, after all? But apparently the author just didn't bother to make a single Google search on the topic. Know how I know? There's one patient who's there for slitting his wrists, yet one of the other boys gets to shave in the communal bathroom with a razor and absolutely zero supervision. Such attentive staff! There's a point made that the cookies Jeff's grandmother made him had to be vetted, but a razor in a communal space is perfectly okay.

And that's not all. Somehow, a staff member who goes around humming the Looney Tunes theme to mock the patients and eagerly discloses their personal medical history to peers is the most inconsequential and least problematic evidence of this fictional psych ward's utter lack of basis in reality.

The staff in this ward are so unbelievably inattentive that they manage to miss several sexual assaults and a suicide which involved the patient . The main character manages to climb into bed with a female patient in the dead of night and , but it's portrayed as fine because . Later, when , Jeff worries not about the wrongness of what he did - which is never acknowledged - but rather that .

There's also a series of assaults perpetrated against Jeff by another male patient, each time in scenes far too explicit for rape/assault shown in YA. In fact, they're even too explicit for something consensual. YA has no business describing . But this book goes there, many times from , among other things.

The narrative fails to properly address the consent issues of these explicit scenes and Jeff's internal monologue is all about how he 'lets it happen' and is curious yet uncomfortable. While I understand that's pretty normal in terms of internalized responses to assault, all the leeway is thrown out the window when he decides it feels right and it's revealed . See, it's used as when Jeff doesn't fight or explicitly say no or try to walk away even during situations he describes as disgusting and scary. It's all just written off in the end as:

The icing on the shitcake? When Jeff explains that he didn't actually consent and the other patient pushed him into sexual activity, "Cat Poop" asks if he encouraged it and uses the knowledge of catching the other guy in Jeff's room as blackmail to force Jeff to speak about his trauma. Professionalism! Just like reading one patient's suicide note to another they were close to is the height of professional behaviour, of course. A suicide note in which the dead girl Totally an acceptable thing for a therapist to share with a troubled, formerly suicidal kid whose friend just died!

But it's okay, because the death of this person Jeff was very close to is barely a blip on the radar. Just like his own suicide attempt, the sexual assaults, his depression, and his progression toward . It barely makes a dent, then it slides on past. The rushed final couple of chapters wherein Jeff suddenly has an about-face and is ready to head back into the world and accept himself feel completely farcical after so many chapters of his outright mockery of others with mental health struggles and the complete detachment from any emotional impact.

I'm just... flabbergasted at how badly this book is written - almost as much as I'm annoyed at myself for not tossing it into the DNF pile by the third chapter. I was going to give two stars since I can understand what the author attempted and something kept me reading despite the flaws, but now that I've finished this review and reminded myself of everything that disgusted me along the way? Nah, it's a one-star book for me.
Profile Image for Allyson.
97 reviews20 followers
July 9, 2021
(I'm not writing this on my computer so if auto correct does something I don't catch that's why.)

I hated this book. I understand the importance of the message behind it, but I still hate it for a few reasons.

1. I could have happily gone without some of the scenes in this book. I did not need to know.

2. This.

"First you have your generic depressives. They're a dime a dozen and usually really boring. Then you've got the bulimics and the anorexics. They're slightly more interesting, although usually they're just girls with nothing better to do. Then you start getting into the good stuff: the arsonists, the schizophrenics, the manic-depressives. You can never quite tell what those will do. And then you've got the junkies. They're completely tragic, because chances are they're just going to go right back on the stuff when they get out of here."
"So junkies are at the top of the crazy chain, " I said.
Sadie shook her head. "Uh-uh," she said. "Suicides are.""

*tried to calm down*
I do not care how much supposed character growth happens, this is inexcusable.
Profile Image for Irina Elena.
678 reviews170 followers
January 3, 2015
I used to think this was sort of a contemporary YA cult, for some reason, but I just realised that not many of my friends have read it. In any case, it should be a cult, if nothing else because it's a book that can help. It can help teens understand themselves and others and it can help adults understand teens.

It's divided in 45 chapters, one for each day Jeff spends in the psychiatric ward of a hospital following his failed (duh) suicide attempt, but it feels like 45 minutes. I gobbled it up in less than 24 hours - it had me captivated, horrified, saddened, amused and absolutely enthralled.

Jeff is a weirdly lovable protagonist. Thinking in stereotypes, he is the epitome of a fifteen-year-old with his cynicism, sarcasm and entertaining fuck-all attitude, but there is a sweetness and gentleness to him that (get ready - this is going to sound really lame) only comes out for the worthy, the people he considers more deserving of kindness because of who they are and what they've been through. That may sound arbitrary and incongruous, but it actually shows a part of him, buried under all the teenage attitude, that cares deeply about others, a protective streak that's going to make him a wonderful person in the years to come.

His voice reminded me a bit of Greg Gaines's, from Jesse Andrews's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, only it's much more bearable likeable, because his story is rigidly structured and chronologically narrated, and the flashbacks are delivered rarely and on a strictly need-to-know basis.
Jeff has this strange ability to come up with wonderful concepts and imagery and deliver them off-handedly, as if unaware of their beauty - but MTF is perfectly well aware of what he's created: naked skeleton trees juggling cotton balls and snowflakes like galaxies rushing by are the sort of similes you don't come across everyday, and they strike that much more powerfully because of that.

He is unaware of his own feelings for the most part, and those he's aware of he tends to hide from himself and the reader, but he makes some remarkable points all throughout the book, like this one, which I felt the need to include because it's probably something we've all thought about once or twice, and if we haven't, we should.
[I'll spoiler-tag it because it reveals a major plot point - but it's a fairly obvious one, if nothing else because of the GR tags, so you can just go ahead and click it imo.]

This one is a bit disjointed and awkwardly put together as far as reviews go, but I'm tired and in the mood for the sort of abstract thoughtfulness that involves staring at the ceiling and listening to music (that could be easily confused with laziness, but do not let youself be misled), so I'll leave you with this: it's a clever, endearing, difficult little gem, transparent but multifaceted, that will make you smile and think and possibly, if you're the mushy type, shed a tear or two - and it's all worth it.
Very warmly recommended.
Profile Image for Jana.
1,419 reviews87 followers
March 30, 2016
This had zero emotional impact on me. It wasn't even bad or boring, but it just didn't affect me at all.
Profile Image for Pavellit.
227 reviews22 followers
March 30, 2017
The time when a prominent YA gay character matures emotionally, regardless of using an idealized MM romance with sexy edges approach or just a window into a gay realistic man’s world, is and it's gonna be so touching subject to me. Until gay guys don’t have to sit their parents down and tell them they like boys without making this ginormous deal out of it.'You practically have to hold a news conference and take out an ad in the newspaper. Why? Why is it that you have to warn people about who you are? Why can’t it just be something that happens? Just because it’s not what most people do? That doesn’t seem fair.'

So, over the course of 45 days in the psych ward, our cool and comical guy,Jeff, tells his story moving it slowly and psychologically,from being in denial about his suicide attempt at the beginning, to the accepting not only what he did but why he felt the need to do it. Moving through these 45 chapters he gets to know the other kids in the ward (Alice, Bone, Juliet, Rankin, Sadie, Martha, Squirrels), talks to his therapist, Dr. Katzrupus(“Cat Poopus? What kind of name is that?”he said), and finally confronts his parents. It's funny, sad, entertaining, and a bit disturbing to read the events through his mind. He has a unique way of looking at the world.

'Like I said, though, I think a lot of us relate to those bears. We’re in here because someone—our parents, our doctors, the people who supposedly love us—are afraid of us. We’re in the Whack-job Zoo so that everyone can look at us without getting close enough to get hurt. Man, that’s messed up. I wonder what Cat Poop would do if next time he starts nosing around in my brain, I just bite him?'

The novel, not only deals with the topic of teenage suicide, but also with the ­difficult, complex subject of sexuality. Jeff is forced to acknowledge what is its role after Rankin’s confusing behavior, and face up to everything that led up to his suicide attempt.

The heart and realism of the book creates a space for recognizable characters.

'I wonder how many of us there are all over the world, how many kids in how many hospitals. How many Alices and Bones and Juliets and Rankins. How many Sadies and Marthas and Squirrels. How many Jeffs. And I wonder how many of us get out. I wonder how many of us are “happy.”'

All in all, the bold direction, stellar cast , social undertones, and funny bits make this a beautiful and inspirational experience.

'Trust me—no matter how horrible you feel or how bad things seem, there is always a way out. Suicide is never your only option.' - part of author' final note.
Profile Image for Jo.
268 reviews945 followers
July 20, 2011
4.5 stars.

“It’s a really crappy feeling to realize that your entire outlook on your life can be controlled by some little pill that looks like a Pez, and that some weird combination of drugs can make your brain think it’s on a holiday somewhere really sweet when actually you’re standing naked in the middle of the school cafeteria while everyone is takes pictures of you. Metaphorically. Or whatever.”

High Points.
I actually choked with laughter on my panad at approximately 90% of this book. The other 10% I was trying to piece my heart back together as it was shattered into smithereens. This book caused very strong reactions in me, as you can probably tell. Friendship. Relationships. Perfect combination of Family. Understanding. Realistic, unflinching portrayal of kids with mental illnesses. Diversity. Siblings. Cat Poop. Watching old films. Acceptance. Hope. Positivity. Gah… I loved this book.

Low Points.
Hmm… this isn’t for the book itself because I honestly can’t think of anything that I didn’t like about it. But I know that this book isn’t for everyone but I’ll cover this in my angst section.

OK, I’m just going to put this out there. I love Jeff. Literally, metaphorically and physically, although I don’t think I’d be allowed to break his ‘No Hugging’ rule he has. Sigh. Jeff’s narration is manic, breathless and flits off onto random tangents (“One minute I’m sitting around eating chocolate chip cookies and then all of the sudden I’m thinking about bears.”) but it’s never hard to follow.
He is self-deprecating, sarcastic and doesn’t hold anything back…. Except the important things.
What I found the most fascinating/upsetting about Jeff's character was that, yes, he was hilarious and came out with some fantastic one liners… but it often seemed that his humour and deadpan commentary was a knee-jerk reaction. Jeff uses his humour as a defence mechanism and I think that was one of the reasons why, when the going began to get tough and Jeff began to realise that he had to face certain things about himself, I found him so endearing because I could relate and I’m sure a lot of other people could as well.
Maybe, at the end of the day, we’re all a bit crazy.

Best Friends/Love Interest
I’m going to go ahead and skip these two because there such an important aspect of, not only the story, but in Jeff’s development and I would hate to spoil it for any people who haven’t read it yet.
So just read it so we can discuss!

Theme Tune.
Madness (Is all in the mind)- Madness

People say that I’m crazy
But I’m not that way inclined
I know what I know and I’ll happily show
That madness is all in the mind.

A little nod at Jeff and his, shall we say, predicament. I like to think he’d be a Madness fan.

Angst Level.
10/10. I’m going to have to apologise in advance for the vagueness of this section but I don’t want to go into too much detail because I think this book is best read knowing nothing.
Like I mentioned earlier, this book isn’t for everyone. There are very graphic descriptions of self-harm and they are shocking and often difficult to read. But Ford perfectly depicts all the raw feelings that Jeff experiences and the scenes are never glorified and he never resorts to sensationalism which some authors tend to when dealing with suicide attempts and self harming.
I also loved the way the reader was kept in the dark about the reason behind Jeff’s suicide attempt was cleverly done and highly affective right up until the last few chapters.
Even though the angst level is extremely high and this book is harrowing in some points, there is a highly positive vein running through the heart of Jeff’s story. I know not all kids out there going through these issues will get the happy ending that Jeff does, but it’s comforting to know that there is somewhere for them to turn even when there isn’t.
I feel like I’m doing this book a huge disservice by dwelling on this side of things because, yes it’s dark… but it’s also one of the most hilarious and heart-warming books I’ve read in a while.
I’m really looking forward to reading more from Ford because he it is obvious that he is a talented and capable writer, both with humour but also the serious stuff, too.

Recommended For.
People who have ever felt there’s no one to turn to. People who love books that are a bit darker than your average. People who give nicknames to people with names they can’t pronounce. People who think they could do a better job at coming up with the dialogue of films. People who always wanted the bigger room that their siblings nabbed. People who feel that The Nutcracker has changed their outlook on life. People who are wondering how you can get to cookies and bears in the same conversation.

You can find this review and plenty of other exciting stuff on my blog here.
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,013 reviews1,922 followers
May 13, 2015
4.5 stars
After an attempted suicide, Jeff wakes up in a psychiatric ward where he is forced to spend the next 45 days. He doesn’t want to and he’s determined not to cooperate, but his stay isn’t optional and his parents refuse to take him home. Finding their son almost bloodless in a bathtub isn’t something they particularly want to relive, and if the psych ward is what it takes to keep him alive, that’s where he’ll stay for as long as it takes.

Jeff handles his situation with lots of denial wrapped in good humor. He absolutely refuses to acknowledge that he has a problem and he is determined not to talk about his reasons for cutting his wrists open. According to him, his parents and the doctor made a mistake and he shouldn’t be locked up with the crazies.

Jeff’s story is heartwarming and poignant, but it’s also simple and laugh-out-loud funny. This diary-like narrative is one of the most honest things I’ve ever read. There are no heroes, no villains, no Big Drama whatsoever. It’s just a story about a boy that could easily be your next door neighbor or your second cousin. It’s not unusual at all and that’s what makes it so special.

Jeff’s character was truly done brilliantly. He is easily relatable, even (or especially) when he’s being obnoxious to his doctors and his fellow patience. Avoidance is his way to handle everything, but every now and again, a real feeling shines trough, be it anger at his parents for daring to save his life, resentment towards his doctors and nurses and the complete and utter hopelessness he feels about his situation.

I want to make this very clear: Suicide Notes is a book that deals with serious issues, but it’s rarely a sad read and it’s never angsty. Jeff’s sarcastic voice determines the overall tone, which is more funny than anything else. Yet Ford still manages to bring his point across by making every one of Jeff’s jokes louder and more touching than any sorrowful moment could possibly be.

I’ve tried this in both formats and while I generally prefer audio, in this case I’d strongly recommend the printed word. Although he’s a good narrator, Joe Caron didn’t succeed in capturing Jeff’s unique voice and most of Jeff’s sarcastic remarks somehow fell flat in the narrator’s interpretation.

If I had my way (but really, I never do), every thirteen-year-old on the planet would have to read three books: Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff, Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz and Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford. These three books promote understanding and tolerance in such a quiet, unobtrusive way, and even though we’re seeing more and more diversity, these are the three that always stay with me.

Profile Image for Sarah.
402 reviews138 followers
February 6, 2017
This was kind of an average read for me. I didn't think it was really deep or hilarious. There were a few things that Jeff said that made me laugh but I didn't actually like him until like 2/3's of the way in. He became bearable then (and also said some insightful things - listed below). He was snarky and mean and I wasn't impressed at all. I always have an issue with unreliable narrators like Jeff. I mean he doesn't tell us the whole story straight away and I don't understand why not. I just don't like narrators who only tell us half the story and kind of leave it until the book is nearly over for some shock factor.

The writing was simple but I thought it was effective. It did sound like a 15 year old boy. The other characters were kind of one-dimensional but this is a story about Jeff though so I can understand why. I would have loved to have learned more about the other patients and learned what happened with them after Jeff left but I think we weren't given closure because Jeff probably didn't speak to any of the other patients after he got out. I wasn't really attached to Jeff though so I didn't really care about getting closure with him.

It was a quick, short read so I probably would recommend it to those who think it sounds interesting and I would probably read something else by Michael Thomas Ford.


"I tried to go back to sleep, but my mind was racing, racing, racing. Only I wasn't really thinking about anything specific. It was just this stream of words and half thoughts, like there were a thousand different channels in my brain and someone was flipping through them one after the next."

"And just because your life isn't as awful as someone else's, that doesn't mean it doesn't suck. You can't compare how you feel to the way other people feel."

"I swear, sometimes it feels like there's this monkey in my head who runs around turning the dials and changing channels on me."

"No one ever tells you that when your heart breaks, you can feel it. But you can. It feels like something has crumbled inside you and the pieces are falling into you stomach."

"When people hurt us, the best thing to do isn't to ask why they did it but to remind ourselves that it wasn't our fault."
Profile Image for hal.
779 reviews106 followers
March 12, 2015
If you haven't read this, you need to soon.

I love Jeff. He's sarcastic, funny and easy to relate to. He says some very witty things, and for a book about suicide, there were some pretty funny moments that made me LOL. He also says some very introspective things too.

I like that

Ugh, I can't even find the words to describe the brilliance of this book. Just go read it. RIGHT NOW.

I've read some pretty amazing books these last few weeks, and Suicide Notes is one of them.
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