Recently Read: “Boy Meets Depression” by Kevin Breel

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Some memoirs are fascinating accounts of deep introspection, providing great insight into an author’s life and mindset. Others are simply an example of one of the most self-serving forms of art. I have never experienced the latter; every memoir I’ve ever has been an engrossing, intimate look into the author’s emotional life and intellectual processes. Unfortunately, Kevin Breel’s Boy Meets Depression: Or Life Sucks and Then You Die Live, finally fulfilled that unfortunate stereotype that memoirs, when not carefully handled, make for dreadful reading.

I wanted to like this book. I am passionate about its subject matter and think that, when done well, firsthand accounts of depression and suicidal thoughts can be life changing. They grant insight to readers who might never have felt that way, and understanding breeds empathy, allowing those readers to connect with and support people in their lives who may struggle with depression themselves. Likewise, talking about those issues lessens the sense of isolation for those experiencing it themselves, and that in itself is powerful.

Breel’s story never clicked that way for me. Maybe because he billed himself as a “depressed comic” and I didn’t find him funny, but the angle didn’t work. About a third of the way through the book, I was dragging. I actually put it aside for over two months. Finally, feeling like a jerk, I decided to watch TED talk that had turned him into a phenomenon, thinking that maybe there was something about his writing that just didn’t translate for me, and once I heard him speak, I’d finally “get” it.

I didn’t. I suspect that perhaps I’ve outgrown his style of writing, or maybe I have always been one of those girls he talks about in his drawn-out rants about how high school girls are evil and out to get him and make him miserable. (Rather like how I read Catcher in the Rye about three years too late and found Holden Caulfield to be just as tiresome as and even more exhausting than Kevin Breel, who at least makes an effort to be winsome.)

One reviewer writes that Breel has “single-handedly demystified depression through his shockingly honest, firsthand account of the struggle.” Not only is this a vast over exaggeration of Breel’s abilities to describe the intricacies of depression, but I’d hardly call his honesty “shocking.” In fact, I’d say his honesty is about what you’d expect from a relatively privileged 21-year old guy who has grown up on social media and landed a book deal.

Forbes.com wrote in their review that Breel “clearly explains what is happening inside the mind of a depressed person.” I will grant them that. He meanders, whines, and complains until we’re just as confused and angst-ridden as teenaged Breel halfway through the book as he struggles with questions such as: Why do we have to go to school? Why does school exist? Soon you’ll be asking yourself, why am I reading this book?

The Forbes interview continues, “If you want a better understanding of the illness then this is a quick but worthwhile read.” I politely but firmly disagree on both counts.

Although I hope that Boy Meets Depression offers hope to someone struggling or insight to a parent, friend, or educator helping someone who is hurting, this book was unfunny, plodding, and tragically unhelpful.

[I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.]

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