I had to copy and paste the latest review on my blog because it was written so well and honest. I also left a link at the end because there's more if the reader wants to read what the reviewer wrote, which I suggest because it's so powerfully written that I couldn't post all of it, so it's better for the reader to go to the link provided.
Help Me is the story of Mick and Layla. Mick is fairly typical 13 year old eighth grader, but he is carrying a lot on his young shoulders. He has been bullied, perhaps because he was overweight or because his best friend was gay. His friend, not able to deal with the constant bullying, took his own life. Mick, now has to deal with the guilt that maybe he could have done something to stop that from happening, the frustration that those who drove his friend to the edge will not be held accountable for their actions and really don’t care that they played any part in his death and he also has to face that a new school, while it removed him from the worst of his tormentors, has bullies to take their place with a whole new list of reasons why they pick on him. His life has become a cycle of posting sad poetry online, clinging to the one or two good friends that he has, and using cutting as a release valve to keep his depression at bay and as a way to give himself some measure of control over his feelings.
Layla is a typical 13 year old eighth grade girl, who finds that peer pressure makes her do things and act in way that can hurt the people she cares about. She sees that Mick is in a dark place, but she has no idea what to do or what to say or even she if should do or say anything. She has a strong enough relationship with her mother to mention his odd behavior and ask for advice, but even then she doesn’t want to betray her friend and doesn’t give her mom the scariest information she has. In the end her friendship with Mick could be the only thing that can save his life.
This is a short powerful read, told from the perspective of each young person. The blunt honesty from each of them is to be admired. These kids were dealing with problems too big for them and they just didn’t know what to do. How many adults don’t have the life skills to handle what these kids had going? Mick’s parents are not bad parents because they missed what was happening. Mick’s need to find some control over the darkness he felt made him hide the worst of it from everyone he could. He knew what he was doing was wrong but it was the only thing that helped and he just didn’t know how to ask for help. Or, Maybe he didn’t know that he COULD ask for help.
It is fantastic that Layla felt comfortable with talking to her mom. Her mom defied the trending “not my kid, not my problem” attitude so prevalent today and did something with the information given to her. The school officials acted on the information immediately. This story provided many great examples of how the situation should be handled. However, as is so often the case, it may have just been too late. This novella should be required reading for eighth grade health classes, putting information in the hands of those who can make a difference before it is too late to help. When a child takes his or her own life, the devastation lives on in hearts of every friend and every teacher and counselor who saw something a bit off but didn’t want to overreact.
As a parent of child this age I can see the usefulness of using this as a discussion starter. Communication is the key. Recovery isn’t an easy thing, but knowing that you aren’t alone in how you feel and that what you feel is real and justified is the first step to getting better.