Suicide Watch, by Kelley York (2012)

Suicide Watch is a website, where people contemplating suicide gather and discuss their pain, their hopelessness, and their plans to end their lives.

Kelley York’s novel, “Suicide Watch,” is one hell of a read.

The book’s narrator, Vincent, has been cast out his entire life. His parents gave him up when he was two-and-a-half years old, and every foster family since then let him go as well. He finally lands with an elderly woman named Maggie, who is completely different. She makes it clear that Vincent’s stay with her will be permanent, and she lives up to her end of the bargain. She cares for Vincent like a son, helps him change to a school that better suits his needs, and serves as a one woman cheering squad.

She dies during Vincent’s high school graduation.

Her estate isn’t much, but it leaves Vincent enough money to live on for a year or so, if he’s careful. His sense of grief and abandonment, of hollowness, is so acute, that he’s driven to think about suicide. He once saw a girl jump to her death from a bridge, and Vincent remembers the peaceful look on her face before she let go of the railing.

A Google search turns up a link to Suicide Watch. Vincent is puzzled, but intrigued enough to sign up. Soon, he finds himself chatting with a girl screen-named Casper, who’s dying of cancer and wants to go out on her own terms. He also meets a boy who goes by the name RoxWell. Roxwell communicates entirely through song lyrics.

The cyber-world of Suicide Watch becomes real when Casper invites herself to meet Vincent for a gallery exhibition. Vincent is still defensive and terrified of people, but he manages to bond somewhat with the vivacious Casper.

On Casper’s next trip down, she brings RoxWell, a sullen eighteen-year-old. The three engage in an uncomfortable evening.

As time progresses, the three become close friends, and Vincent and RoxWell agree to help Casper when she decides to end her life.

The three friends prop-up one another as they face their individual hells, through sadness and loss, through hope, love, and triumph.

The key to “Suicide Watch” is Vincent, through whose eyes we see everything. We’re privy to his thoughts and inner pain, and we can see just how hard it is for him to trust his new friendships. He’s so used to being abandoned and made to feel worthless, that it’s damned near impossible to believe that people really like him just as he is.

I’ve suffered from depression for years, and I found myself highlighting passage after passage from Vincent’s narrative. “Oh, that’s true. That’s dead-on.” That sort of thing. Vincent is drawn that realistically.

Kelley York does a wonderful job in keeping the story under control. It’s not like Vincent meets his new friends, then suddenly begins dancing joyful tarantellas. His distrust of people–individually and in general–is too deep-seated for him to change that abruptly.

Change is gradual, and often painful. Ms. York recognizes this, and she avoids innumerable pitfalls and easy shortcuts she could have used.

In the afterword, she says that this book was the hardest book she’s written, that she gets attached to her characters and finds it heartbreaking when they suffer.

It’s obvious that she means what she says. Life has dealt Vincent a cruel hand. Ms. York doesn’t shy away from his pain. She guides him through it as best she can, hoping–and leaving us to hope–that Vincent finds some sort of recompense in the end.

Most Highly Recommended


About tom

B.A. in Literature, Minor in Film Theory and Criticism, thus meaning all I’m trained is to write blog posts here. Neptune is my favorite planet–it vents methane into the solar system like my brother does. I think Chicken McNuggets look like Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Indiana. There are times when I’m medicated, which is why I wrote about McNuggets. Buy some today and tell me I’m wrong! Anyway, Beyond that: mammal, Floridian, biped.Good Night, and Good Luck. Besos, tom
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