About the Book
Ruby has had a difficult year to say the least. Just before she started Sixth Form, her father died from a heart attack. In the difficult months that followed Ruby became so depressed that she attempted suicide. She missed a lot of school, but now she’s about to go back and she’s worried. Is she well enough to get through her final year? Will the depression return? Should she apply to university? The night before term begins, Ruby finds something that makes the prospect even more daunting: an envelope addressed to her in her father’s handwriting. Inside is a list: ‘Ten Things I Hope You Do Before You Leave School’. It makes no sense. She can’t understand why he’d want her to do these things, let alone whether she’ll be able to do them.As Ruby navigates her way through UCAS, parties, boyfriends and A-Levels, she decides to give the list her best shot, but her efforts lead her into strange situations and to surprising discoveries. Will Ruby survive her last year at school? Can she do the ten things on The List? Will doing them make any difference?
10 Things To Do Before You Leave School is the story of Ruby. She has had a really awful year – her dad died suddenly, which led to her becoming increasingly depressed and she attempted suicide. The novel opens with her making her return to school and we see all the anxiety that goes with that. Right before she goes back to school she finds an envelope with her name on and it’s written in her dad’s handwriting. Inside is a note of ten things he hopes she’ll do before she leaves school.
This is such an incredible novel and one I’m so glad that I read. Ruby is such a believable, real character and I could feel her pain throughout this book. She carries so much guilt about her father’s death and she’s still grieving his loss. Then she’s dealing with her recovery from depression and trying to come to terms with her suicide attempt. Not to mention all the normal teenage stuff that all teens deal with – boyfriends, school and exam pressures, wanting to fit in. She has such a great attitude considering all she’s been through, or perhaps even because of it, and I was rooting for her to find her way through it all. It’s many years since I was Ruby’s age but I can remember what it felt like to be a teenager. I also had a very hard time during my A-Levels and really empathised with Ruby as a result.
I still haven’t got that study habit back, that feeling that I’m reading properly and that everything’s going in the way it used to. Maybe it’s the drugs. Or maybe (and this is a more frightening thought) what’s happened has changed me for good and I’ll never be the same again.
I know the pain of losing a parent, albeit I was in my 20s when my mum died. It changes you in so many ways to lose someone who you believed would somehow always be there. Facing life knowing your parent won’t be there makes everything different and Bernard O’Keeffe really captures the sense of loss.
I loved the relationship that Ruby has with her younger brother. They are typical siblings who argue and wind each other up but they also absolutely have each other’s backs. They are there for each other when they need to be and I adored that.
I found it interesting that we don’t get to see what’s on the list Ruby finds right away. We see her thinking about it and wondering how on earth she’s going to ever be able to do all of these things. We then see her going about her life and at certain points in the novel we see one of the things on the list as she ticks it off. At first I was frustrated because I wanted to know what was on it but actually I really appreciated seeing Ruby achieve each item and to have the satisfaction along with her that she’d accomplished something. I did wonder if the list would come to be something else that added pressure to her when she’s already quite fragile but it really does help her. It made me wish I’d had a list when I was her age and that something outside of myself had propelled me to the things that scared me, or that I didn’t have the confidence to do. I won’t spoil what’s on the list or whether Ruby manages to complete it but there are difficulties along the way, which made this book all the more real for me.
I recommend this book to everyone but particularly to teenagers – it’s a book that I wish I could have read when I was that age. It’s raw and honest and moving but it also gives you hope. I loved it!
Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.
10 Things to do Before You leave School is out now and available here.
About the Author
After graduating from Oxford, Bernard O’Keeffe worked in advertising before training as a teacher. He taught for many years, first in a North London comprehensive, then at Radley College, where he was Head of English, and most recently at St Paul’s School in London, where he was Head of Sixth Form.
He has reviewed fiction for Literary Review and The Oxford Times and, as an editor of The English Review, has written over a hundred articles for A Level students on subjects ranging from Nick Hornby and Roddy Doyle to Jane Austen and Shakespeare. In 2013 he published his first novel, ‘No Regrets’.
Twitter : @BernardOKeeffe1
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