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Did Not Finish: Lullabies For Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill

April 3, 2010

Lullabies For Little Criminals is likely the most depressing book I have ever read. It starts just before Baby’s 12th birthday, when her and her 26-year-old drug addict dad, Jules, are once again moving to a new apartment building in a seedy neighborhood in Montreal. The book then follows the next two years of Baby’s life, an endless cycle of loneliness and disappointment.

I made it just over half way through before I gave it up, which was a tough decision. First of all, I always feel the need to finish any book I start. I can only think of one other book in the last few years that I’ve stopped reading midway. Secondly, and most importantly, I don’t want to give up on something just because it makes me feel uneasy, because then I would never read anything that challenged me. But reading this book became more than just uneasiness. The depression that I felt when reading stayed with me long after I closed the book. For the sake of my own mental health, I knew I had to stop reading it.

Stories like this are important, because there are kids who go through these things every single day, and I don’t want to belittle those experiences at all. But reading about Baby’s life just became too much. I would only recommend this book to anyone thinking of becoming a social worker.

I will say that Heather O’Neill’s writing is completely engrossing, and every time I picked the book up, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the page.

When you clean up your act, naturally there are certain aspects of your life that you have to change. For instance, you should probably stop stealing and staying out all night. But Jules had somehow knocked off loving me in a certain way that he had when he was a junky. I wished that they had told him at rehab that hanging out with me and dancing and eating sundaes and drinking Coke out of green-and-yellow teacups were all okay. I wish that they had told him that all that was not part of the junk addiction. (p. 115-116)

12 Comments leave one →
  1. April 3, 2010 3:46 pm

    yeah, some of these books just dont work out :/
    book blog hopper here, your blog looks really cool!

  2. April 3, 2010 5:41 pm

    Oh I’m with you. I can’t read books that are too sad. My little heart can’t take it. I know their important but I just figure, “life is tough enough…my books are my escape.” Great non-mini-review!

  3. April 3, 2010 6:25 pm

    Just the title of this one make you wonder about the kind of story will be involved with this one. Some books are so dark you have to be in a special kind of mood to read them.

  4. alissagrosso permalink
    April 3, 2010 6:30 pm

    It’s only recently that I’ve been able to actually walk away from a book I wasn’t enjoying. I try to give every book a chance, but some books just aren’t right for everyone.

  5. April 3, 2010 11:19 pm

    Oh, I loved this book. It WAS tough to read, but for me it was so authentic and moving. I found it uplifting rather than depressing, because it’s autobiographical fiction, and Heather O’Neill has gone on to university and obviously is a talented writer, and is doing good things with her life. I think this book deserves to be widely read, because it speaks the truth about life on the fringe of society. The truth may be unpalatable, but it needs to be heard. I think this was one of the best books I read in 2009, which just goes to show that different people have different reading tastes. :)

  6. April 4, 2010 6:14 am

    Oo, thanks for the warning. This looks like the sort of book I’d’ve picked up for the title and then not been able to stop reading even though (I suspect) I would really, really want to. I have such mixed feelings about it – as you say, I don’t want to feel that I’m not challenging myself, but on the other hand, I don’t want to torture myself during my leisure time. :/

  7. April 4, 2010 9:22 am

    Aww… I’m sorry you didn’t love it. I did, but books are a matter of taste, so I totally get it.

  8. April 4, 2010 9:56 am

    I’m always wondering why YA is so dark. Are there no happy stories during youth?!

    I just found you via the Hop.

    BTW, I’m having a contest at my blog. Today is the last chance to become a follower at my blog and leave a comment to try to win one of two $10 Amazon gift certificates. Stop in today!

  9. May 24, 2010 11:18 am

    Actuallly writing a review of this book for my own blog. LOVED it . Read it cover to cover within 3 days. It was Baby’s insight on her situation, her utter honesty that got me. Anyways… Don’t try reading Bukowski, (which I love) because you may want to slit your wrists. I guess this book just wasn’t for you… too bad, it was really wonderful and beautifully written.

  10. Ana permalink
    May 31, 2011 8:16 pm

    I normally cant take sad storys, but Im just in LOVE with this book . I found it a great read and I could just sit for hours and read it! I definitely have plans to read it another time again.

  11. Ashley permalink
    September 30, 2012 9:06 am

    I had to read this book as part of my English class, and I thought that is was wonderful. Hard to read as the contents are incredibly sad, but none the less a good read. I am going to school to be a social worker and I greatly disagree with you about not reading it in that case. I think that if you are unable to get past this book how do you have a job like that. It gives you insight to what you may possibly cross one day or what you may see on several occasions. Anyhow, Heather O’Neill did a wonderful job writing a beautiful book that has its up’s and down’s, but tells a wonderful story.

    • Rachel permalink
      December 16, 2012 2:49 pm

      She said “I would only recommend this book to anyone thinking of becoming a social worker.” So your argument is invalid haha.

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