Sunshine is Forever – Kyle T. Cowan

Um, is it politically incorrect to say you enjoyed a book about depressed teens who have attempted suicide? Oh, well, here goes … I really enjoyed reading Sunshine is Forever.

Growing up reading The Baby-Sitters Club books I was determined to go to camp in America and have fun with a bunch of new friends from camp like Kristy and co. Even after watching all of the Friday the 13th movies I still wanted to be a camp counsellor. Much to my dismay I never went to camp as a kid or counsellor, but find me a book about teenagers going to camp, any camp, and I want to read it.

So, here we are at Camp Sunshine which incidentally leaned closer to Friday the 13th (minus the sex) than BSC. In fact, had Jason shown up to deal with Asshole Jim around the time of his introduction I probably would have happily provided him with directions and a mug shot.

I would hope that Camp Sunshine would never get accreditation to open in the first place because other than half an hour of token therapy a day, the workers may as well have been singing Kumbaya with the kids for all the good they were doing. A padded cell used as punishment? Really??? I kept thinking as I was reading this book, ‘please don’t let this resemble the way mental health is dealt with in America’, but having seen some documentaries about American LGBTQ conversion therapy I wondered how far from the truth it actually was.

My time reading this book was divided between smiling at Hunter’s observations and monikers he chose for his family, friends and prison guards (oops, sorry, therapy staff) and sadness at the situation all of these teenagers were in. With themes including guilt, forgiving ourselves and others, and taking responsibility for our actions there were obviously going to be portions of the book that were very difficult to read but like witnessing an imminent train crash I couldn’t look away. I had to know if the crash was going to happen or if there’d be a near miss.

Hunter’s conviction that it was only through Corin’s love and acceptance of him that he could be happy was both sad and believable. It’s much easier to assign roles for other people to attempt to make them responsible for the outcome of our lives than to look inside and take responsibility for ourselves.

I spent most of the book waiting as patiently as possible to find out what secrets were hidden in Corin’s thick green file and wasn’t surprised at their theme when all was revealed. However hard it was to read I did like the symmetry it set up between Corin and Hunter. While the noose around Hunter’s stomach was guilt, Corin’s noose was shame.

I loved the point made that you get out of therapy what you’re willing to put in to it. I would’ve really liked to have read that miscalculations had been renamed at the end in conjunction with Hunter taking responsibility for his actions, but that’s essentially nitpicking.

I liked that some things were left undone at the end. It wouldn’t have worked as well if everything was wrapped up with a pretty bow. Life’s messy and while we’d love to believe in them, Insta-Fixes aren’t as plentiful as we’d like to think.

I felt this one sentence summed up depression better than the DSM-5 could ever hope to:

“If you knew me, you probably wouldn’t like me, either.”

Content warnings include descriptions of self-harm, suicide attempts and sexual assault.

Thank you very much to NetGalley and Inkshares for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

After a life-changing decision, Hunter decides that he can’t go on …

… which lands him in Camp Sunshine, a rehab center for depressed teens. Hunter is determined to keep everyone there out of his head, especially his therapist. But when he meets Corin, a beautiful, mysterious, and confident fellow camper, all Hunter wants to do is open up to her, despite the fact that he’s been warned Corin is bad news.

When Corin devises a plan for them to break out of the camp, Hunter is faced with the ultimate choice — will he run from the traumatic incident he’s tried so hard to escape, or will he learn that his mistakes have landed him right where he’s meant to be?

Sunshine is Forever captures the heartbreaking spirit of The Fault in Our Stars, the humor of Orange is the New Black, and the angst of Catcher in the Rye.

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