Book Review: Guts by Raina Telgemeier
TRIGGER WARNING: MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES ARE DISCUSSED INCLUDING SUICIDAL IDEATION
Publisher’s Book Description
A true story from Raina Telgemeier, the #1 New York
Times bestselling, multiple Eisner Award-winning author of
Smile, Sisters, Drama, and Ghosts!
Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it’s probably just a bug. Raina eventually returns to school, where she’s dealing with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session. It soon becomes clear that Raina’s tummy trouble isn’t going away… and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. What’s going on?
Raina Telgemeier once again brings us a thoughtful, charming, and funny true story about growing up and gathering the courage to face — and conquer — her fears.
I’ll be honest with you, at this point new books by Raina Telgemeier don’t really need any promotion. I know so many tweens and teens who have been waiting with breathless anticipation for this book. In fact, when my library sent me to BEA earlier this year my one personal goal was to get a copy of this ARC for Thing 2, which I did. I didn’t really know what this book was about, I just knew that it was Raina Telgemeier and she’s a big fan and it would mean a lot to her.
It turns out, this book means a lot to us all. Several years ago, I decided that I was going to be very open and honest with myself, my kids, my family and I guess the entire Internet that I was struggling with depression and anxiety. I had my first full blown panic attack back on February 4th of the year 2006. I went to the ER because I was pretty sure I was having a heart attack. I was not having a heart attack, that’s just one of the fun ways that anxiety works for me. I get this intense burning sensation in my arms and chest, it literally feels like my heart is aching, and my whole body kind of shakes. I cry a lot. I can’t sleep. And I like to go hang out in my bedroom which I have made into a dark cave. I feel nauseous but I can’t eat. I have thrown up on occasion. I have, on occasion, had suicidal thoughts. All in all, it’s a truly horrible experience. I can not explain to you if you have not experienced it yourself how truly awful it can be. I don’t have word craft necessary to do the topic justice.
The Teen had her first panic attack in middle school. She is now a junior and it’s been a bit better for her, but the joy of anxiety is you just never know when it is going to bare its teeth and sink it into your soul. Watching my child struggle with this darkness that I know and probably shared with her is some of the heaviest burden I have to carry in this life.
So like I said, this book turned out to be really personal for my family. Thing 2 is 10 and she is aware that both her sister and I struggle with depression and anxiety. We talk about it in our home because every time things get bad for one of us, it effects the entire family. I want her to know that what’s happening to us is an illness just like any other illness and that it’s not her fault. I also want her to know about it in case it turns out she has it as well. Mental health can be genetic. Genetics are not always nice.
Because this is a book about a young girl with anxiety, it helped us have conversations about this very issue that effects our family. That’s the beauty of finding the right book at the right time. The power of story can help stir important conversations and it did in our house.
Thing 2 also has a friend who has anxiety and we let her borrow the ARC. I can not tell you what this book meant to her personally. Her mother texted me and let me know that she had read it multiple times in just a weekend and she felt safe and found and validated. That too is the power of story.
Author Raina Telgemeier chose to bare her soul on the page and share her personal struggles with anxiety and I’m here to tell you, this is a powerful and important story. Every time we talk openly and honestly about mental health, it helps to erase the shame and stigma. More people ask for help.
So let me take a moment to tell you about the last two weeks in my house. I personally have been struggling once again with some severe anxiety. I could feel myself spiraling and I knew it was not good. Yesterday I had some real full on panic attacks and I had to leave work early. But this time was so very different from other times. I asked for help from the people I knew loved and supported me. I asked a friend to please pick up my children and bring them home because I couldn’t. My husband asked me very specifically, “what do you need from me?” I called and talked to a friend who talked to me the entire hour drive home to keep me calm and make sure I got home safely. A friend from work texted to make sure I got home safely. I felt loved and supported and validated because I chose to be honest about my mental health issues and had a support network in place that was more knowledgeable and understanding and supportive. It made a difference. I’m not sure how long this little jaunt into the mental health abyss will last. I know it won’t be the last time. I know there will be worse episodes. I know that there will be better days. I hope there will be. But man, talking about it and erasing the stigma in my home made some things better about this time.
That’s why books like Guts matter. For kids and grown ups like me who struggle with chronic health issues or mental health issues or anything outside the norm, sharing our stories helps to erase the stigma, helps to increase support and understanding, and I’m here to tell you, sometimes it literally saves lives. Far too many of our young people are wrestling with mental health issues and we need to do better for them. Guts is just one of the ways that we can help. And that’s the power of story.
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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