My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First Published: August 1st, 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Non-fiction, Biography, Sports, Mental Health, Psychology, Suicide
From noted ESPN commentator and journalist Kate Fagan, the heartbreaking and vital story of college athlete Madison Holleran, whose death by suicide rocked the University of Pennsylvania campus and whose life reveals with haunting detail and uncommon understanding the struggle of young people suffering from mental illness today.
Maddy: Do u like this enough to Insta?
Madison Holleran committed suicide on January 17th, 2014. In this book, Kate Fagan sheds light on this dark event. Why would an Ivy League student who is beautiful, bright and athletic and seems to have it all want to take her own life?
When I read the title for the first time, I thought this book would be about a girl whose life was better *because* of track. But it’s actually as much about what pushed Maddy to run as it is about the sometimes positive but mainly negative effects running ended up having on Maddy.
I included what may seem like an innocuous quote at the beginning of this review because social media plays an important role in this book. The author discusses the ways in which social media affects teenagers today, the low focus on mental health issues in the student body of universities as well as the different thoughts people share about suicide and how to talk about it in a healthy, inoffensive manner.
The truth is Madison Holleran should not have died. She did seek help—and yet, it was not enough. She had support—but not the kind she needed. People heard her as she talked about hating Penn and wanting to quit track and offered her advice. Her family and friends did take her concerns seriously, but Maddy felt anxious about so many things in her life. While she wanted to quit track desperately, she could not bear to disappoint her teammates and coach, who was genuinely concerned about Maddy and promised her solutions instead of agreeing she take time off.
Reading about Maddy’s meeting with her coach reminded me of the time I went to my teacher to tell her I wanted to quit my enriched math class to register for the regular one. She literally said to me, ‘‘It’s too late to quit now, you won’t catch up in the other class’’. We were only two weeks into the school year. Instead of reassuring me, she targeted my insecurities. I was too scared to drop the class after that encounter, but I should have, because I ended up taking a regular math class the next year and loved it. That served as a lesson. I don’t mean to compare my experience with Maddy’s, since that would be wrong and extremely inappropriate. I’m sharing this to convey from personal experience how important it is to not let other people tell us what to do and what is good for us. My instinct told me I needed to quit that class, just like Maddy’s instinct told her she needed to quit track.
An important book.
PS. I found this sentence problematic: The importance of a psychologist is this: she may be the only staff member whose job is not related to winning… (top of page 89).
By using the pronoun ‘‘she’’, Kate Fagan is feminizing psychology, implying that this field of study is reserved to women and therefore excludes men. It would also have been problematic if she’d used ‘‘he’’ so the clear solution here is to use ‘‘they’’. I’m surprised this small but important detail was overlooked by the author and editor.
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