Once Mom is out the door, I leave Jude in the kitchen to clean up. I go to my room to grab her night dose from my lockbox. I bought the lockbox after she tried to overdose. It was expensive as hell, but worth it. I type in the four-number code and pop the door open. Jude's on a couple of different things. It's a complex mix of antidepressants and mood stabilizers that she and her psychiatrist worked out the first time she tried to kill herself. I have detailed instructions on how flexible we can be with the dosage. I have to be extra careful about raising it. Sometimes if a person is too depressed, a little bit of a boost from meds can increase the risk of suicide. It's like the brain hasn't caught up with itself–if there are thoughts of suicide in there already, having even a bit more energy can drive someone to complete. That's what they call it. Completing. Not succeeding, because that sounds too positive. It's a whole world of new language I had to learn quickly the hard way.
When I go back downstairs, Jude is gone. She didn't clean up.
"Hey Jude!" I call up the stairs. "You better be cleaning your room."
Penny, 17, is in the last year of high school. She spends her time doing homework because she needs high grades if she's going to get a university scholarship, helping around the house so that her single mother doesn't have to do everything, working shifts at Java World, a local coffee shop, and worrying about her younger sister, Jude. Jude has attempted suicide and is on a cocktail of mood stabilizers and antidepressants to try to make sure that she doesn't try again.
With all her responsibilities, Penny has no room for a social life. How can she when she gets Jude up in the morning, cleans her room, administers medication, and hides Jude's mood swings from their mother. This is bad for both of the sisters. Jude doesn't get the psychiatric care she needs. Penny doesn't have time to do some of the things she's always dreamed of — like join the drama club.
The one bright spot on Penny's first day of her last year of high school is meeting Jack, a hot new student whom she can't keep her eyes off. Even better, he wears a Yellow Submarine T-shirt and likes the Beatles. Penny is named after another Beatle's tune – “Penny Lane”, Jude after “Hey Jude”. Jack and Penny are immediately attracted to each other. He has mental issues, himself, so understands about Jude. Then why does their relationship turn cold after only a short time? It's a question Penny keeps asking herself.
Hey Jude follows Penny, Jude, and Jack through a period when Jude slides suicidal. Rather than tell her mother, Penny continues to try to hide the situation. She does, however, realize what Jude is trying to do and finds her before it's too late. Jack follows Penny and calls 911, an action which leads to Jude’s going to hospital and getting the help she needs. At the same time, the girls' mother realizes that she has put too much responsibility on Penny.
The characters in this novel are realistic and well-developed. Penny portrays an older sister who is taking on too much responsibility. It's hard for people such as this to let go of control, something which Penny finally does. Jude's behaviour is typical of many people with depression: low energy, constant sleeping, poor hygiene, attempts at suicide. Their mother is clearly overburdened by her work and paying off the debts of a husband who has passed away. Jack understands the seriousness of the situation and the importance of getting help.
Hey Jude shows an accurate portrayal of unhealthy family relationships: mentally ill sister, over-responsible sibling, parent who is too busy to see what's happening. Jude's hospitalization is a wake-up call that will lead to therapy and outpatient care. Penny can lead her own life, take time for herself and do the things she's always dreamed of.
Helen Mason started her career as a teacher. When she was in her mid-20's, she began a freelance writing career, has authored 38 nonfiction books, many of them for young readers, and is currently working on a young adult novel about a 15-year-old whose mother takes an overdose of her Bipolar Disorder medication and dies.