Monday, August 10, 2009

Suicide Dogs


There’s never been a road trip quite like this. In Crash Into Me by Albert Borris, Frank, Owen, Audrey, and Jin-Ae are visiting the graves of famous people who have committed suicide, and at the end of their cross-country journey, they plan to kill themselves together in Death Valley. Each has their own reason for wanting to die, reasons you’ve probably heard before in teens that you know of who have attempted or committed suicide—a breakup, not living up to family expectations, not being able to come out as gay to a conservative family. Owen, our narrator, has a slightly different reason. He blames himself for his brother’s drowning death. Owen was playing in the pool, pretended to drown, and his brother jumped in after him, hit his head, and died. Owen was only 7 at the time, and for the past 8 years he’s been trying to kill himself in various ways, been in and out of hospitals and seeing multiple counselors.

What Owen, Audrey, Frank, and Jin-Ae have in common is incredible loneliness. They originally met online, and when they realized that they had all attempted suicide at least once, they decide to meet for this final suicide tour, calling their group Suicide Dogs. Meeting in person may provide the desperately needed connections to the world that could ultimately save them, but the group mentality may also spur them each to ultimately do something some of them have begun to reconsider.

With visits to the graves of Anne Sexton, Ernest Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson, and Kurt Cobain (as well as other sites that master researcher Owen finds along the way), and activities from the “things to do before I die” lists that they’ve each created, this book keeps a fast pace, with none of the true drudgery that can come with a long road trip. Interspersed with the narrative of the road trip are some of the original online chats from when the teens first met and started to plan the trip. The author, Albert Borris, has worked extensively as a teen counselor and seems to have a good sense of dialogue—these kids aren’t spouting philosophy at every turn, they’re confused and trying to figure things out, trying to find out if they have a place in the world. I wouldn’t like this book if I felt like it glorified suicide. It doesn’t. Each character is aware of the serious consequences of his/her potential actions, but feels that they are out of options.

Albert Borris’s web site has further information on him (including his most embarrassing moments!), as well as suicide prevention information. Crash Into Me has characters that many people will feel a connection with, and is worth reading to find out how they come out on the other side of their journey.


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