★★★★★ | Jessica’s Ghost
“Why, Francis wondered, should ‘being different’ be so painful? Why did it matter so much when, if you thought about it, everybody was different in one way or another.”
These days we seem to be hearing a lot more about suicide then we did a few years ago. Stories of people committing suicide for many reasons. But also people thinking about suicide and, thankfully, suicide prevention. Is it an epidemic or are we simply more aware thanks to social media? It’s unclear, but one thing that is obvious is that there is always a reason why people decide to end their lives and usually this reason is called depression.
The largest group to feel driven to suicide are teenagers and they are often the ones that can’t understand what is going on with them. They are usually unaware of depression so don’t know why they feel the way they do.
Depressed teens are more often than not the ones that are seen as “different” from the rest for whatever reason and the ones that are bullied. The combination of all this, and the fact that teens find it difficult to communicate their feelings is often what is behind a teenage suicide attempt.
Knowing all of this it is strange that there are so few books for (pre-)teens that explain depression in a way that is clear but also entertaining at the same time, until now.
Jessica’s Ghost written by Andrew Norriss is an amazing book that deals with three early teenagers and a (teenage) ghost whom have all experienced depression and feeling “an outsider” for different reasons.
Most The Gay UK readers might remember Norriss as one of the writer/creators of the classic sitcom The Brittas Empire featuring not only the dishy Chris Barrie (in tight shorts) but also the first and (only) gay couple to feature in a prime-time family BBC1 show. This show was not afraid to tackle difficult subjects for family audience in a funny and witty way and this book is no different.
Jessica’s Ghost starts with protagonist Francis whom is mocked at school for his love of fashion and sewing and just not fitting in with the crowd. One day he meets a young girl called Jessica and she just happens to be a ghost. Through her his life and the lives of several others change drastically.
It is a wonderful book and the way it deals with depression and even suicide is beautiful. Even though these subject matters may seem dark, the book is written in a way that is funny and relatable. During the course of many adventures the book describes how depression feels, how important it is to talk and how yes, things will get better.
Andrew Norriss’ book is a breath of fresh air in a time where many people – including writers- still shy away from discussing mental health issues especially for young people despite a clear need for this.
I feel this book should be recommended by (child) psychologists to help bring a better understanding about depression. Having been through this myself as a teenager I know that a book like this would have certainly helped me a lot.
Dannii Cohen is a stand-up comedian (drag name Divine Varod) and comedy writer turned author, psychologist, professional counselor, life coach and self-help expert. Specialized in LGBT issues, anxiety, empowerment, children’s issues and bullying.
Published works include children’s books about childhood depression and the importance of being yourself (When Clouds Hide The Sun and Christopher the Lonely Bear) and an easy to use self help manual 50 Things To Know To Have A Better Life: Self-Improvement Made Easy.