Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Next Day, by John Porcellino, Paul Peterson, and Jason Gilmore

The Next Day: a graphic novella
by John Porcellino, Paul Peterson, and Jason Gilmore
100 pages
Toronto: Pop Sandbox
ISBN 9780986488412

4 first-person case studies of survivors of near-fatal suicide attempts.

This graphic novella is a documentary compiling interviews with four people who attempted suicide and survived. Ryan drank antifreeze, Tina tried to hang herself, Chantel and Jenn overdosed on pills. We learn what brought them to the point where they wanted to end it all, and the anger, despair, relief, regret, and shame they felt when they realized that they were still alive. Reading the story is sort of like observing a therapy group; the voices alternate and overlap with each page signed by the speaker.

The illustrations are simple, almost childish, with no color and little shading. The characters looks like they came out of a comic strip. However, that simplicity puts the focus on the text, which has a few platitudes -- "you only get one life" -- but seems heartfelt. These really come across as interviews with real people, and I think troubled teens would find something to relate to. The point of the Next Day project (this book and the accompanying website) is to raise awareness of suicide and to prevent it. The project asks, "What if all the people who are contemplating taking their own lives waited just one more day?" It is a resource for suicidal people and their friends and loved ones as well -- everyone who needs help in confronting the issues of depression and learning how to support depressed people before or after a suicide attempt. As one of the survivors says, "My family was so angry at me... and I didn't understand why.... You don't get angry at someone for attempting suicide. You help them."

The novella could supplement a unit in a 7th-, 8th-, or 9th-grade social studies/peer topics/health class. Suicide is an important topic to discuss with youth, with the goal of getting help to those who need it and informing and empowering those who have been affected by suicide.

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Media: pen and ink

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