Teach Me to Forget – Erica M. Chapman


5 star

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Merit Press

This is the story of Ellery, a girl who learns how to live while waiting for the date she chose to die. 

Ellery’s bought the gun, made arrangements for her funeral, and even picked the day. A Wednesday. Everything has fallen into place.

Now all she has to do is die.

When her plans go awry and the gun she was going to kill herself with breaks, she does the one thing she has control over–return it and get a new one. After tormenting the crusty customer service associate by trying to return the gun with the wrong receipt, Ellery gets caught by the security guard who also happens to be someone she knows–the annoyingly perfect Colter Sawyer from her English class.

Colter quickly uncovers what she’s hiding and is determined to change her mind. After confessing a closely held secret of his own, he promises not to tell hers. Ellery tries to fight her attraction to him as the shadows of her past cling tight around her, but when she’s faced with another tragedy, she must decide whether she can learn to live with what she’s done or follow through with her plan to die.

Trigger warning: self-harm, suicide, suicidal ideation
**I started adding these trigger warning to my reviews when I noticed other people adding them as a way to help those who are sensitive to those topics. I never put much stock in it until now. These trigger warnings are very real. If you are even the slightest bit sensitive to self-harm, suicide, or, suicidal ideation do NOT read this book.

The days are going by and in my mind I keep opening doors like an Advent calendar, ticking off my life in numbers, I hadn’t realized when I made my deadline that it would be like this – a countdown. But that’s what it’s become. My room is my prison and the walls my bars. I’m in a jail of my own making and there is no parole – only the death penalty. – Erica M. Chapman

Teach Me to Forget is not what I thought it would be. I was expecting a story about a girl’s failed suicide attempt and her emotional/spiritual recovery throughout the rest of the novel. That is not what happens. The main character, Ellery, is still plagued with suicidal thoughts throughout the entire novel. Teach Me to Forget is told from Ellery’s perspective. The reader gets intimate details about the way she views herself and how she thinks the world perceives her. She’s plagued by guilt and shame that is enhanced by the fact that she’s a teenager trying to discover her own identity. Ellery’s struggle with the pain she experiences, her struggle with joy only to have it eclipsed by her guilt, and her conflicting feelings feel genuine.

The strongest aspect of this novel is that the romantic elements do not overshadow Ellery and her struggle with depression. The romance was featured just enough for it to feel organic. Ellery’s story isn’t a romance novel with mental illness as a plot device. Her story highlights mental illness and how it affects not only her, but also everyone around.

Chapman’s writing resonated with me in a way I haven’t thought about for years. You know, those times in high school where your emotions are heightened and everything seems difficult with no end in sight? I went through a dark period in high school where I thought a lot about the point of my life. This novel brought me back to that place within the first few pages. I thought it was a chapter in my life that has been dealt with and closed, but Chapman was able to open it with ease. I was able to identify with Ellery on a level I thought I left in the past. Most of this novel felt as if Chapman opened my own mind and used what spilled out as inspiration.

I enjoyed living vicariously through Ellery as she discovered what it feels like to make friends and experience young love whilst fighting the urge to live. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking novel that displays the tragedy that is depression at its worse.

The moon is in the middle of the sky, dancing in the for, attempting to hide the bruises. It speaks to me. Ellery, it says. You never chose to be born, but you can choose to die. IT reflects my scars, my quiet resolve. It doesn’t change. When I’m gone the moon will still shine in the sky and disappear behind the clouds, crying for the morning sun. It’s a comforting thought tonight. – Erica M. Chapman

Usually novels of this nature feature a page at the end with information about suicide and phone numbers to call, etc. However, Teach Me to Forget didn’t, which I believe is a huge misstep that needs to be corrected in future printings. That information is valuable, especially after a novel like this. So….

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Numbers for other countries: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines
Other various hotlines: http://www.teenhealthandwellness.com/static/hotlines

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