Friends for Life, or Jessica’s Ghost by Andrew Norriss
Updated: Nov 7, 2020
This book made me cry both times I read it.
That being said, if you don’t want the themes of this book spoiled for you, stop reading now.
I have never contemplated suicide. I’ve selfishly wondered how friends and family members would feel or react if I were to die in an accident or something, but I love life way too much. Because of my lack of personal experience with legitimately dark feelings, I can be judgmental. “Why on earth would anyone ever want to do that?” or “There are so many ways out of those feelings, can’t they get over it?” are examples of the unconscious thoughts that occur underneath the “Oh, that’s so sad/terrible/awful” and “Poor thing, they really need help.”
Friends for Life changed that and gave me a glimpse into what the idea of ending one’s life could mean to a lonely young teenager.
What I appreciated most about that glimpse is that it was gentle. Many books and movies and television shows that deal with suicide delve into the depths of depression and anxiety and despair, dragging the reader or audience along with them. I am grateful to Andrew Norriss for emphasizing hope and demonstrating the connectedness to be found through friendship. Instead of making me want to go and kill myself as well, this book has inspired me to cultivate loving relationships, share my heart, and receive the hearts of others. It has taught me that often the way to reach someone is with quiet, non-judgmental support, not with estranging pity or peppy solutions.
Beyond the touching message of this story, these characters are adorable, and one of my favorite things about them is how utterly dissimilar they are from one another; Francis, Andi, Roland, and Jessica the ghost are incredibly unique in their interests and identities. Even Francis and Jessica, who share a love for fashion, have starkly contrasting personalities. I love to drag the Enneagram into everything, and my conjecture is that Francis is a Type 5 with a strong 4-wing, a very reserved, individual type, while Jessica is a Type 7 wing 6, a fun and outgoing but anxious type. Just to add, I think that Roland is also a Type 5 and that Andi is a Type 8. These differences illustrate that many types of people contemplate suicide, and not just those we would expect; the moral of the story: be aware and considerate.
Although, as the title states, Friends for Life is primarily about the power of — you guessed it — friendship, it still conveys the message to seek trained adult help, which is especially important for any tweens reading it. The one in the end to save Lorna (spoiler) was Jessica’s aunt, the mature counselor, not Francis, the precocious but still inexperienced teenager.
I have learned more about empathy through Friends for Life, and have appreciated the hope,
positivity, and compassion that pervade throughout it. This book is short and sweet and simple, and I highly recommend it for young adults needing help, adults trying to help, and anyone, like me, who wants to understand.
I read this because of Alison Larkin, who narrates the audiobook version, which you can get here. I speak in an interview included at the end of the audiobook, and an excerpt was featured in the local online newspaper.