Official Review: Stepping Up by donalyn Powell

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Official Review: Stepping Up by donalyn Powell

Post by SamSim » 11 Jun 2018, 17:36

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Stepping Up" by donalyn Powell.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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"I don't even know who I am." "I'm so tired of hurting." "I don't know what to do anymore. I feel lost and broken." These are just a sampling of the gut-wrenching "heart-cries" taken from countless letters received by Donalyn Powell from teens who have considered or attempted suicide, as well as the surviving family and friends of teens who have perished by their own hand. Powell has faithfully collected and lovingly answered these letters, compiling some of them into her book, Stepping Up: Finding Healing for Your Life and Hope for the Future. This book is the culmination of Powell's efforts to reach out to those who are considering suicide or mourning a suicide victim and to speak a simple, hopeful message into their bleak situations: "Suicide is not the answer; God's life in you is."

Stepping Up consists of letters to and from Powell; relevant poems by the author; short stories about people who have attempted or considered taking their own lives or endured the loss of a loved one to suicide; and well-placed, poignant photographs. The stories include that of Anna, who endured sexual abuse at the hands of her friend's father; Lisa, who returned home from a weekend trip to the devastating news that her boyfriend had killed himself; and a despondent mother at a loss about how to break the news of her son's death to her other children. Each letter received by the author is followed by a heartfelt, compassionate return letter from Powell, which are full of empathy, as she also went through a period in her life where she was suicidal due to a lengthy illness. She urges the hurting person that God loves them, that He has a plan and a purpose for them, and that ending their own lives would cut short the time for that plan. She patiently addresses each incident and concern described to her by the letter-writer, explaining why they should forgive themselves, forgive others, be honest with someone they trust, and seek the help of an intervention professional.

The stories and letters are an intense emotional roller-coaster. I ached with grief at the pained words of those mourning a loved one and asking that unanswerable question: Why? I trembled with fear while Amanda described the heartless beatings she endured from her father, a minister. I felt ill when Carmen described cleaning up the scene of her boyfriend's failed suicide attempt after he slit his wrists, because she didn't want him to have to see it when he returned from the hospital. I was most moved by the story of Candice, who bravely shares her botched-abortion experience with pregnant teenagers, urging them to choose life and adoption. I was surprised and pleased at the way Brad, a former drug addict, turned his life around. I rejoiced at Powell's letters full of encouragement and faith, conveying the love, forgiveness, and hope of God. While her beliefs and messages are decidedly Christian, she never comes off as "preachy" or judgmental.

In many cases, a poem separates the received letter from the response. I found these perfectly brief, relevant to the preceding letter, and they were were written in approachable language. Here is a portion of my favorite one:

"In His heart / there is a place / for every one of His children / where burdens are lighter / and every joy is greater. We are the children / He holds in the palm of His hand."

I love the unflinching nature of this book, both in terms of honestly presenting the painful situations faced by real people seeking meaning in their experiences and in terms of the Christ-focused answers Powell writes to them. Her advice is also practical. For example, when Anna admits that she has been cutting herself for over a year as an emotional release due to past sexual abuse, Powell provides a short list of activities to choose from next time she feels the need to cut, to redirect her mind and body from hurting herself. Also, almost every letter includes advice that is a variation of: "Asking for help means you care enough about yourself and your future to get better." It's never just a pray-once-and-God-will-fix-it answer, which is important.

The final chapter of this book features some disheartening statistics related to suicide, which illustrate plainly how much works like Stepping Up are needed. There are only two areas where I think this book is lacking. First, I found plenty of errors to cost it a star, like misspelled words ("Granniess" for "Grannies") and words in the wrong tense ("mentioned" for "mention"), missing hyphens and commas. Second, although the date at the beginning of this book was 2018, the statistics provided all date from the 1980s. The subject matter is too important not to update this information. If you are a preteen or younger or really sensitive, don't read Stepping Up. If you have considered suicide or are concerned that someone you love might be, I highly recommend this book. Fearless works like these are wonderful tools that tear down taboos and force us to really see what others are facing or that there are others who understand and want to help. For being part of the solution, I rate Stepping Up, by Donalyn Powell, 3 out of 4 stars.

******
Stepping Up
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Post by gen_g » 12 Jun 2018, 10:43

Thanks for the detailed review! I love books which are not afraid to discuss sensitive issues, and it also sounds like an inspiring read.

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Post by SamSim » 12 Jun 2018, 11:10

The overall tone is definitely one of hope, but it is so heartbreaking how many people have doubted their own value to the point of committing suicide. It sounds like a cat poster but, seriously, everyone is so precious and important! Thank you for reading and commenting on my review.
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Post by Ever_Reading » 12 Jun 2018, 12:31

SamSim wrote:
11 Jun 2018, 17:36

Second, although the date at the beginning of this book was 2018, the statistics provided all date from the 1980s. The subject matter is too important not to update this information.
I couldn't agree more. This was a careless move by the author because suicide statistics have changed drastically since the 1980s. Nonetheless, it sounds like a good book. Great review :wink2:
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Post by SamSim » 12 Jun 2018, 13:26

Ever_Reading wrote:
12 Jun 2018, 12:31
SamSim wrote:
11 Jun 2018, 17:36

Second, although the date at the beginning of this book was 2018, the statistics provided all date from the 1980s. The subject matter is too important not to update this information.
I couldn't agree more. This was a careless move by the author because suicide statistics have changed drastically since the 1980s. Nonetheless, it sounds like a good book. Great review :wink2:
I didn't check, but I'm sure they must have. Thanks for reading my review and for commenting!
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Post by Yolimari » 12 Jun 2018, 15:12

This is indeed a sensitive and relevant topic since the statistics are increasing. I am sure it will help many people. Thanks for the review!
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Post by SamSim » 12 Jun 2018, 16:09

Yolimari wrote:
12 Jun 2018, 15:12
This is indeed a sensitive and relevant topic since the statistics are increasing. I am sure it will help many people. Thanks for the review!
I sincerely hope it reaches and helps as many people as possible and that more books like this are published. Thanks for reading and responding!
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Post by Helen_Combe » 13 Jun 2018, 03:25

Thank you for the review. It looks like an important book to help people dealing with this increasingly common tragedy.
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Post by Sahani Nimandra » 13 Jun 2018, 05:10

Sound like a very sensitive read. What interest me the most is their problem and the solutions provided, the reasons for them that lead them to end their life. This book reflects the reality in this world it also shows a lot flow of negativity in people that made them to go through rough situations. Definitely on my shelf. Thank you for sharing this read!
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Post by SamSim » 13 Jun 2018, 05:25

Helen_Combe wrote:
13 Jun 2018, 03:25
Thank you for the review. It looks like an important book to help people dealing with this increasingly common tragedy.
Thank you for reading! I believe books like this are very important because, you're right, suicide is sadly common; more common than I thought before I read this book.
Samantha Simoneau

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Post by SamSim » 13 Jun 2018, 05:29

Sahani Nimandra wrote:
13 Jun 2018, 05:10
Sound like a very sensitive read. What interest me the most is their problem and the solutions provided, the reasons for them that lead them to end their life. This book reflects the reality in this world it also shows a lot flow of negativity in people that made them to go through rough situations. Definitely on my shelf. Thank you for sharing this read!
Yes, my heart ached for all these people and I can't imagine what they went through. This book is surprisingly practical. For instance, Powell takes the time to make the reader aware of warning signs and behaviors to watch for in someone who may be considering suicide. Thank you for reading and commenting!
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Post by Kat Berg » 13 Jun 2018, 06:33

and seek the help of an intervention professional.

I'm so glad that it included this part in the book. These kinds of books do not always. I commend you for being able to get through this entire book. I do not think I could have. It is so painful and sad when a friend commits suicide, and I have so much compassion for those struggling with suicidal ideation. I am glad there are books out there to help people cope. Thanks for the review!

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Post by SamSim » 13 Jun 2018, 10:34

Kat Berg wrote:
13 Jun 2018, 06:33
and seek the help of an intervention professional.

I'm so glad that it included this part in the book. These kinds of books do not always. I commend you for being able to get through this entire book. I do not think I could have. It is so painful and sad when a friend commits suicide, and I have so much compassion for those struggling with suicidal ideation. I am glad there are books out there to help people cope. Thanks for the review!
I'll admit, I had to take breaks from it and read it in stages. The situations are indeed "painful and sad" and I wished I could help in some way. That same longing to help is what moved Powell to write the letters and, ultimately, the book, and I admire her efforts. Thank you for reading and commenting!
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Post by hsimone » 13 Jun 2018, 15:47

This sounds like such a powerful and meaningful book. I can't even imagine how heart-breaking it would be to read letters from teens who have attempted or considered suicide, and the families who have lost a loved one due to suicide. The phrase, "an intense emotional roller-coaster" sounds appropriate here; it makes me sad just thinking about it. Too bad about the amount of errors and that the statistics were not updated before publishing this book. I agree, the subject matter is too important to not have current data. However, I'm glad you found the book meaningful and worth recommending still. Thank you for insightful review!
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Post by BriennaiJ » 13 Jun 2018, 15:57

This book sounds interesting! I love the fact that the author focused on the fact that simply praying is not always the answer, and that a person can seek help if they need to.

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