Suicide Tango: My Year Killing it with a Shrink, ostensibly written by Tripsy South (edited by ghostwriter William Garner), chronicles a year of therapeutic sessions between a suicidal patient and her psychiatrist.
Narrated by the psychiatrist and intended for young adults, most chapters contain a series of individual sessions between Tripsy, a mercurial yet unusually mature teenager with a biting wit, and Dr. Moore, a self-deprecating specialist in the field. The story evolves as Tripsy reveals the motivation behind her suicidal urges and begins having a transformative impact on her doctor. Readers eventually question who is healing whom in this relationship, as she enables him to overcome his writer’s block and finally finish a well-received treatise on teen suicide prevention.
An additional wrinkle: Is Tripsy an “Indigo child” who is “tied to some higher source of energy” that gives her super-human powers? This question adds an intriguing slipstream element to the novel.
The author approaches the delicate subject of teenage suicide in a humorously morbid way that’s likely to appeal to teens. For example, Tripsy imagines live-streaming her death, declaring, “[p]eople love this kinda entertainment. It’s modern-day caligulation [sic].” Meanwhile, Dr. Moore questions its entertainment value and whether this method would actually achieve her goals. Tripsy talks in a flip way that rings with authenticity (she has a penchant, for example, for calling the doctor “dorkus”).
The author excels at capturing the intimate struggle between therapist and patient, the resistance that prevents them from understanding one another. Readers should be aware, however, that in multiple sessions, Tripsy provides exhaustive, graphic lists of different suicidal methods, which might make some parents uncomfortable. Additionally, the author places a critical plot twist in an appendix that readers could easily overlook.
While structural changes would improve the impact of the book’s conclusion, the novel provides an entertaining, edgy portrait of therapy. Young adults will especially appreciate the story’s frank and noncondescending approach to a difficult subject.