Wednesday 28 August 2019

Ellen Lives On by Lynda Haddock Young Adult Fiction Review (Sent by Matador).

Ellen Lives On is a young adult novel by Lynda Haddock which opens with the loss of a parent to suicide. This is a positive and empowering book, which offers real support to young people in the same situation, but obviously it has darker moments and for some readers it may be a hard read at first.

Ellen is 15 and returns home from school to find her front door blocked and no response from her mother inside. She calls on her neighbours for help, they ring the police, and her life stops. Just like that.

Ellen Lives On by Lynda Haddock Book Cover shows a young woman's face close up, she has a small smile

Instantly reading this book, it's obvious the author Lynda Haddock understands. She explains very well the confusion and dream-like state you enter. The way you are no longer in control and life happens to you. Everything you expected is turned on it's head and the plans you had made for years just don't count any more.

The police are in charge of your home, social workers and other people you barely know direct you. Strangers know who you are and express their sympathy for you in the street. And when you are told it'll never be the same again, it really won't.

Ellen Lives On by Lynda Haddock young peoples novel about surviving suicide of a parent extract from first page

Set in 1971 (the year I was born), against a background of miner's strikes and rising feminism, Ellen is sent into temporary foster care and then placed with an aunt she barely knows. The only adult relative she has to turn to is her aging and ill Grandfather, who lives hundreds of miles away in London.

Feeling completely lost and alone, she hates it at her aunt's house, where she is expected to tend to her uncle and cousin's needs while they sit around idle. Her mother taught her women were equal, in fact all people are equal, and she gets into trouble at home and school by expressing her own opinion about comprehensive education.

Already feeling as if everyone stares at her, and pities her, it becomes too much and she runs away. She travels to London and finds her Grandfather. He is due to have an operation and really needs support as much as she does. She makes friends with a group of young people, who help her to accept the support she needs to survive and thrive.

Ellen has a new start and you can see her future can be bright and bold, and she can do great things. She lives on.

It's honest. Quite raw and brutal at times, but personally that lack of fannying around is easier to cope with and I for one found it refreshing. The author has extensive experience working with young people who have suffered trauma and I think she is probably excellent at her job.

I'm 47 and as I read Ellen Lives On, I found myself reading about someone like me. There's an understanding which is really deep and only comes from experience. Sympathy makes you cry and some days you just don't want to deal with it. Sometimes you just point blank announce what happened because it's easier to just say it with no build up, and people are shocked and can't respond immediately, so you can force the situation to move on - either by walking away or changing the subject.

Ellen Lives On by Lynda Haddock back page blurb tw suicide of a relative

Weird as it is to say it, I loved this book. I would recommend it to young people, and not so young people, who have lost someone close to suicide. It has a positivity that you need. You know it isn't Ellen's fault her mother has died, you know she's allowed to feel angry and you understand why she doesn't say it aloud. You can see just how much she has going for her, how much she can achieve, and you can do that too.

I think Ellen Lives On is probably also a great book for someone who is supporting a survivor of suicide, because you can see what can be helpful, and what isn't. You can see a little into their head and empathy follows.

Ellen Lives On is written by Lynda Haddock and published by Matador, 258 pages, rrp £7.99 and well worth it. I'd recommend it to anyone around 13+, including full grown 47 year olds. Available from good book shops, including Amazon - affiliate link below. 
Update Spring 2022: Ellen Lives On is now also available as an E-Book and an Audio Book. 

In 2012 I lost my little brother, and in 2014 we lost our 16 year old, Elspeth
I miss them both so much. Every single minute of every day. 

I was sent my copy of Ellen Lives On for review. Amazon links are affiliate, which earns me a few pence as a thank you if you buy through my link, but it never costs you a penny extra. 


  1. This sounds like a great book for older children or adults impacted by suicide. We lost a beloved nephew to suicide some years ago, and because my sister-in-law found the loss so difficult to deal with, his younger sister came to live with us for 3 years. It would have been very helpful to have a resource such as this to offer her.

    1. Thank you for your comment - and for your kindness and compassion to your family. It's people like you who make life, and the hardest parts of it, bearable for a lot of people. They are lucky to have you. It really is a book that would have been perfect for her, and she would probably still take a lot from it now. It felt indulgent reading it, but I think sometimes we are allowed to remind ourselves that it's just not fair.


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