Help! I'm Alive, Gurjinder Basran's insightful, compelling third novel, captures the guilt, confusion and longing for connection that follow the death of a suburban teen. Four people narrate the story, each of whom was close to Jay, a boy who livestreamed footage of his death. While all four experience some of the same emotions--guilt, regret, grief--Jay's death leads them to examine their own lives through different lenses.
Conventionally popular Ash, Jay's former best friend from childhood, wonders if he's become as fake as the people around him. He gets to know Winona, Jay's sort-of-girlfriend, as they're repulsed by the immediate, performative outpouring of collective grief in their community. Troubled Winona talked about art and death with Jay so often that she didn't take him seriously and now finds herself more alone than ever. Ash's brother Anik, a music prodigy, has sequestered himself in his family's basement for months, trying to read his way to the meaning of life. Ash and Anik's mother, Pavan, reflects on Jay's childhood with her family, her own sons who now seem like strangers, and the love and energy she poured into those three relationships she has now lost.
Rather than exploiting suicide for character development, Basran (Everything Was Good-bye) opts to probe fractures in the oldest, closest relationships and the beautiful fragility of new ones. Each character is distinct, drawn with such detail that readers will find it easy to empathize with them. Help! I'm Alive is a masterful examination of what it means to be human, to hope and to connect. --Suzanne Krohn, librarian and freelance reviewer