DiscoverYoung Adult

Suicide Gyal

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When Sharon talked to her dead friend, I knew this was the book for me!

Synopsis

Guilt is a horrific curse and Sharon can't shake it. Struggling to sink into the shadows she finds herself unwillingly thrust into the forefront of an investigation.
To murder or to be murdered seems to the question of the day. The other option is to go to the police, but with so much at stake and a reputation for being unhinged is this truly an option?

I'm happy I got to read Suicide Gyal and sad at the same time that there are not many books like this one.


I keep saying indie books give 'trads' a run for their money, and this book is a perfect example. 


Suicide Gyal is a gripping story that artfully weaves the themes of mental health stigma, suicide guilt, and social injustice while telling the story of Sharon, the main character.


Sharon is a uniquely crafted persona with so much depth that it is hard not to think of her as a real person. She's a high schooler from Nigeria whom many think tried to commit suicide; hence, the book title is the nickname she carries in the story.  


When it comes to the other players in the story, the author did a fantastic job connecting each of them to the other and revealing these connections slowly throughout the book. There was not one perfect character in this book, they were all human, and that is what I look for in a story.


Sharon's family thought she was ill because of her dreams and visions, and her psychiatrist diagnosed her as schizophrenic. It was her dreams along with Nigerian folklore that reminded me so much of home. My grandmother, like Sharon's, was a bit in the superstitious side. She used to analyze dreams and talk about how the dead will come over to say goodbye before they passed on—reading about Sharon's vivid dreams brought back fond memories for me. Like Sharon and Shola, my sister and I were raised with the "if you misbehave, we are sending you back," threat, this was also very amusing to read in the book. 


Reading this book reminded me so much of home in the Dominican Republic and my family, so I may be biased when I say this, but I LOVED IT.


The story of Suicide Gyal leaves no loose end undone and wraps everything at the end, making it a satisfying read. But this doesn't mean that it suffered from a saggy middle or a slow start, no. The author masterfully placed questions about the story, the plot, and the characters, and little by little reveals the answers throughout the book. Each chapter was a surprise.


I must warn you: when you reach 75%, please don't plan to do anything else, because you won't be able to until you know how it ends. This is not a place for a bookmark.


Not only did I enjoyed the book because of how relatable it is to me, but because it portrayed the differences between societal norms in Nigeria and the UK, as well as how the children—who have mostly acclimated to their new home— navigated both worlds, realistically. 

This story touched on the BIPOC struggle and social injustice in the UK, without sounding preachy. The similarities between what I read in the book and what I've experienced in the US were similar; they endeared me even more to this story.


This is a story with a message.


Suicide Gyal is a story that deals with suicide, sexual abuse, wealth and social inequities, and neglectful parents. These are all hard issues to tackle and read, yet the author presented them in the story beautifully and made it a delight to read—a sign of a great storyteller.  


I can't wait to read more from this author.

Reviewed by

I am an MFA Creative Writing grad student and an avid reader who knows a thing or two about a good story. I enjoy characters that are as real as the humans I know. I'm a sucker of magic, and witchy things, but I will read it if it has a good blurb. A great cover will catch my eye every time.

Synopsis

Guilt is a horrific curse and Sharon can't shake it. Struggling to sink into the shadows she finds herself unwillingly thrust into the forefront of an investigation.
To murder or to be murdered seems to the question of the day. The other option is to go to the police, but with so much at stake and a reputation for being unhinged is this truly an option?

Little Drops Form An Ocean

On. Off. Count droplets. Empty palm. On. Off. Count droplets.

Sharon stared at the tap and counted how many droplets occurred before the dripping stopped. She’d placed her left hand beneath its mouth and caught  some of the water; then she observed in silence as it slipped through the gaps between her fingers.  It was ice cold, a welcome contrast to the unexpected fiery warmth of the heatwave that had central London in its stronghold. It was 6 AM, yet the sun shone like it was 12 PM. She’d opened the bathroom window as far as possible for want of fresh air, yet felt as though she was in the sauna at the local leisure centre.

‘Global warming’, she thought.

 It was the only explanation. Adults had ruined the planet with rubbish. They’d burned irreparable holes in the ozone layer by way of carbon and compound gases. At 14 years of age she was morbidly beginning to wonder if she’d ever reach adulthood; partially expecting to be wiped out by a bizarre act of God. At times she imagined London submerged in water, caused by a freakish bout of heavy  seemingly unending rainfall. In her vision of the drowned capital, the post rainfall city was a watery apocalyptic mess, with bloated dead bodies littering the surface; the swollen corpses bashing against one another like bumper cars at a funfair. 

“5”,  She whispered. 

Sharon momentarily observed her face in the mirrored door of the low hanging bathroom cabinet above the sink. 

Deep breath. Bend.

She took a quick gulp of air, plunged her face into the sink, turning the tap on at full blast. Water exploded out of the facet. The sink’s plug was already in place, prepped for stage two of what was steadily becoming her new morning ritual. She kept her face downwards, eyes open staring dead ahead at the black rubber plug in the sink, as she waited expectantly for it to fill up sufficiently in order for her to  immerse her face without straining her back. Quickly the water rose. Soon her face was covered. She clawed with urgency for the tap, her fingers scrambling to turn it off to avoid wetting the floor. This morning wasn’t one for mopping.  All tasks completed, there she stood faced down holding her breath for as long as possible. She closed her eyes and emptied her mind.

‘Bloodstained basketballs and  footballs raining from the sky’, echoed a voice within.  

The main scene from her recurring nightmare appeared before the eyes of her mind. The lightning, the bustling wind, the blood infused raindrops and the grey clouds were all so vivid. She almost felt as though she was dreaming again.

 ‘It’s always the school sports field’. 

Everytime the torturous event began the same way.  It was odd. She was a strong believer in dreams imitating real life. They were in her opinion, a factory defected version of life events, whisked together and scrambled with the oil of  sensibilities within the frying pan of the subconscious, cooked by the gas of hidden emotion, served on a tray of pillows during rest time and fed to the owner’s internal consciousness through the mouth of the inner eye. 

Sharon didn’t play or enjoy sports; with the exception of cycling which was a sort of sport, she guessed. I mean, she’d raced a few kids around the old estate once upon a time. Sharon had even taken on Long Leg Larry, ghetto cyclist extraordinaire, and won a four pack of  cornetto ice cream. Not the real cornetto, like the one advertised on TV, the imitation cornettos sold in the supermarkets that were usually half the price of the brand name ones. Anyway, guess cycling is a sport because it’s in the olympics and events such as Tour De France exist. A few summers back she’d reluctantly participated in Long Leg Larry’s Tour De Shoreditch, which Sharon had to admit was fun until Amil was side swiped by a bus. And so Tour De Shoreditch met its end, as did the majority functionality of one of Amil’s legs.

Besides cycling Sharon didn’t do sports and so was very much perplexed by the persistent vision of the overcast school sports field, bloody rain, balls and the ghost of April Summers.

While alive April had been best friends with Sharon’s elder sister, Shola. But 5 years ago during the Easter holidays she went missing. In autumn  of the same year April’s severed body parts were found bobbing up and down in the murky waters of the Hoxton branch of Regents canal. Apparitions of April’s ghost weren’t welcomed; she frightened Sharon. You see, sometimes Sharon saw dead people. In fact, two very important people in her life who were deceased appeared to her on a regular basis and had discussions with her, which she told no one about. These two  were her best friend John, who died from complications due to sickle cell in the summer April disappeared, and her late grandmother Grandma Subomi.

The year of April’s murder was a terrible year in Sharon’s life. On the evening of John’s death Sharon fell from the roof of their block of flats, Gates House in the now defunct Melville Housing Estate. Luckily, Gates House wasn’t a tower block in the usual sense. It was significantly smaller and shorter than the other flats and consisted of three floors, four flats in each and a roof top. The ground floor was dedicated to retail outlets; a laundrette, a cornershop and a internet cafe-cum-IT repair shop. All three were run by Mr. Iqbal who was notorious for selling expired lucky dip candy packs to the kids on the estate for 50p. No one ever really got ill, except that one case of Ishamel’s diarrhea, which Mr. Iqbal denied and was adamant couldn’t be proven to trace back to his goods. He only stopped selling expired sweets when blind Kristy, as she was  known, choked and almost died on a gone-off candy from a lucky dip pack. Her mum went crazy, threatened to call the police and report Mr. Iqbal to both the council and trading standards. But she changed her mind when he offered to compensate her with a free pack of cigarettes, a bottle of brand name vodka and a lottery ticket every week unfailingly.

When Sharon fell off the roof she landed onto the 1st floor terrace. Luckily, Dodgy Tyrell, master purveyor of stolen goods, had recently been released from a stint at her majesty’s pleasure and was minding his business out on his mum’s balcony, enjoying the evening while smoking a blunt. He called the ambulance immediately.  Miraculously for Sharon she only broke  her left leg, right arm and wrist, and suffered  minor head injuries. But she was never the same afterwards. For one thing everyone assumed she’d attempted suicide. And so, her moniker ‘Suicide Gyal’  or S.G. for short was born courtesy Reuben, a St. Lucian teenager who lived on the estate.

She and John were as thick as thieves, spending every minute they could together. It was forgivable to a degree that people assumed she was so shaken by his death that she ran up to the rooftop and leapt off  the ledge in an attempt to take her own life. But she hadn’t. She and John played on the roof all the time and had done so for years.  It was their secret hideout. John dubbed it the watchtower. Often especially during the spring and summer months, when the weather was good, they spent hours sat there, each with a pair of binoculars, observing everyone on the estate; seeing a lot of things that children their age probably shouldn’t have seen, like Myles West and his gang sealing drug deals or Mr. Carter in the flats opposite beating his step-son mercilessly when the boy’s mum was at work. Sharon had simply gone up to reminisce on good times and mourn her loss. But someone pushed her. She didn’t know who or why. In fact, till she fell she’d thought she was alone. There wasn’t anyone there when she arrived. No one used the roof. They all assumed it was inaccessible, as had she and John until that one day they played knock down ginger  and the crazy geezer who lived at  number 10 set his pitbull, Spunky, on them as retribution. 

Sharon was pushed forcefully by childlike hands, but she never told anyone this. At first she’d wanted too, but there was so much drama around her accident that she waited. Then when everything calmed down and she planned to tell her parents she started seeing, feeling and hearing things that weren’t really there. She felt as though her ears and eyes were tuned into another frequency that inserted audio and visual imagery into her real life. In her therapy sessions she fondly referred to it as the other dimension; an invisible world more permanent than the plane she existed in that superimposed itself into her life. The doctors called effects of the other dimension schizophrenia. So, if we’re to discuss things with medical accuracy, Sharon was a schizophrenic, though she tended not to look at things this way; it was horribly morbid to do so. She was certain the local drunken nut job known fondly as The Mayor of Melville suffered from a similar condition and she was nothing like him. Her mum Sade was a nurse, which helped somewhat. Sharon took her medication daily and aside from a hiccup here and there she lived a pretty normal life. She knew the strange things she saw and heard weren’t real. The other dimension was some sort of chemical imbalance in her brain. But there was something extra spooky about it. The visions and hallucinations Sharon saw weren’t imaginary. They were symbols, clues and parables relating to secrets or future occurrences. She knew because everything she saw came to pass in reality.


Suddenly a sharp pain grew in her chest. Sharon couldn’t hold her breath any longer. She yanked her face from the water and took in a massive gulp of air, spluttered and gasped all while smiling. It was difficult to explain, but for some reason each time she drowned her face in the sink till she couldn’t hold her breath any longer, she felt alive and reset. The pumping of her heart, heaving of her chest, the soreness of eyes and dampness of her skin rebirthed her. Gone were the complications of life that overnight cleaved to the surface of her physical being like sticky sweat from poor air conditioning.  Banished was the haze that lingered each morning from her nighttime encounters with the ghoulish tormented spirit of April Winnona Summers.


“You really need to stop doing this Ronnie”, said John.

John was leant on the door wearing a grey sweater and matching jogging bottoms. He grinned at her but his eyes couldn’t mask his concern. He’d  always had expressive eyes; they were his one weakness and the best means to gauge his true feelings. Though John Kelvin Thomas had died in the ambulance on his way to Homerton Hospital five years prior, on the evening of the 25th of August at 9 years of age,  he was very much alive to Sharon.  As she grew with the passing days and months he did also.  Now in what would’ve been his 14th year of life, he stood a towering mini-giant of a boy, as charming and as loving as ever.

 “One of these days you just might drown or really hurt yourself”, he warned.

Sharon didn’t turn around, instead she observed him from the mirror on the cabinet door.  She wiped her face with her hands, then ran her wet palms through her scalp and braids in frustration. Her next appointment with Dr. Yaz, her psychiatrist, was the coming Monday.  Sharon was going to come clean and tell her everything that had been going on. She didn’t want to get sick again. Sharon feared she was slowly edging towards the brink of unravelling. Her mind wasn’t doing what she needed it to, at the capacity which she required.  Clearly something was amiss.  New mediation perhaps? Or was she deteriorating? An image of the Mayor of Melville flashed before her eyes. She shuddered. Sharon didn’t want to lose control, but since April reentered her life she could feel her grip on the handle of reality speedily slipping. She was struggling to stay afloat and feared that soon she would plunge into the bottomless pit of unretrievable insanity like the local nutter tramp had.

“You’re back”, she said, forcing a smile. 

Honestly, she loved seeing John. His position as her best friend was yet to be usurped, probably never would be.  But seeing him at a time like this was a red flag she couldn’t ignore for the sake of maintaining both normalcy and sanity. 

“Well, don’t get too excited to see me stinky butt”, replied John smiling back. 

He left the door, sat on the edge of the tub and moved the floral peach coloured shower curtain away from him. Once comfortably situated he beckoned Sharon to join him, patting the empty space alongside him on the rim of the bathtub. His smile was warm and his eyes looked upon her lovingly. How could she not oblige? He was all she had, or at the very least a major portion of her happiness in life.  Besides it looked like he wanted to talk. Sharon could do with a chat with her best friend. She sat down beside him and rested her head on his broad shoulder. He exhaled and wrapped an arm around her. For a brief moment they weren’t in the bathroom, but were on the rooftop of Gates House preparing for their ritual of surveillance. He gave her a comforting squeeze, leaned in and whispered in her ear.

“Your dosage is fine stinky butt and you know it. April’s the issue because Shola’s the problem. Pay close attention to what’s happening  in front of  you. Stop being oblivious to the world before something bad happens to your sister. And by something bad, I mean death.” 

And just like that he vanished. Sharon hated it when he disappeared without warning. She caught herself from falling over and jumped up. Everything was a mess.


About the author

I was born in Hackney, East London and spent the majority of my formative years living between Hoxton and Nigeria. I currently live in London with my son and work in digital advertising. view profile

Published on May 22, 2020

50000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Young Adult

Reviewed by

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