Trigger Warnings: discussion of suicide, suicide ideation, bullying
(including physical and attempted sexual assault),
; to a lesser degree, alcoholism, drug use. Also abduction and non-consenual medical procedures/experiments (because aliens). I would really strongly urge anyone thinking of reading this to make sure you're in a good head space, even if these aren't particular triggers for you .This is a pretty grim book most of the time, though it does lighten up somewhat in the second half.
So after thinking about this all weekend, I'm going to have to separate out my thoughts on this one. Since I read it for a YA group, that did shift how I read it and what I was looking at while reading. I think as a YA book, it really depends on the kid, and probably not suitable for kids younger than 15 or 16 (depending of course on the maturity of the individual child). It would be one I'd want to discuss with any kid who is reading it because of it's very heavy subject matter, and because it's written so evocatively that it really pulls you into the MC's head space, which is rather dark and dreary for a good portion of the book. I was also thinking that this isn't a book that would've appealed to me as a teen because this is the last thing I'd want to read while also surviving high school. Just, no thank you. I'm also baffled why sex in YA is such a no-no, but
gets a pass, along with underage drinking and illegal drug use, both of which are done with parental approval. I can't even say it was under parental supervision, because, well... I don't think it counts as supervision when the parent is smoking with the kid. So as a book aimed at YA age groups, it's not very YA-friendly. Parental advisory, and all that, I guess.
All that being said, if I'd been reading this on my own without taking all that other stuff into consideration, it's easily 4.5 stars. This is pretty much everything I look for in a book. I could sink my teeth into it, there was plenty to make me think, and it did a bang-up job of getting me into the MC's mental state, which is not always easy to do with stories centered around depression. Not all depressions are the same, not everyone experiences it the same way, but I grew up with a mother who was suffering from depression and I've had my bouts with it myself. There's a fine line between getting the essence of depression across to the reader and making it feel authentic to the character's experiences and thoughts versus "I just read the DSM description and browsed through WebMD, and this is what depression is!" type of portrayals of mental illness. It's kind of the same difference when watching a movie and seeing the character vs seeing the actor playing the character. I can't speak for anyone else and would never presume to, but in my experiences, this book gets depression right.
As for the aliens...
whether they ever existed at all or where just hallucinations that Henry conjured to give himself something else to focus his pain, anger and confusion on, that's left open-ended. If they're real, then it's highly likely the world is going to end. If they're not real, then their absence at the end signals a new beginning for Henry. Things in Henry's life are still far from perfect, but they are starting to look up. We're not told, and it's up to the reader to decide. At least I know which ending I would pick.
I really liked Diego and Audrey, who were great friends for Henry, and I even came to like his family - kind of. :P Ms. Faraci was great. While I hated Marcus and the other bullies, I did appreciate that Marcus was given depth without turning this into yet another bully apologist bullcrap plot line like the last two books I read that centered on bullying.
(Though I'm not a fan of the "MC is secretly sleeping with his in-the-closet bully" trope. This is the third YA m/m book I've read this year with this trope, and it in fact reminded me so much of [book:Reasons to Love a Nerd Like Me|25823439] - which I did not like - that I was constantly comparing them while I read because they hit all of the same plot points and at pretty much the same pace and for the same reasons. Aliens aside, of course.)