@Farsight This CoG sounds like it is going to be quite an experience to read. I’m highly interested in seeing how it turns out.
In terms of what you guys were saying about changing genders, I like to be able to change the MC’s because it makes it easier for me to identify with the character I’m controlling, but I generally prefer NPC genders to be set. I completely understand my opinion on the subject (and most of the reader’s opinions in general) are irrelevant. I don’t mean that in a rude way, it’s just that I understand that, in the end, the creative and stylistic decisions are up to the author. Anyway, I feel like set genders make NPCs more real to me, more defined. I think a set gender for the parent in this case is especially important because honestly, the experiences of a single father and a single mother are completely different. Also, females and males tend to react differently to loss, and handle depression in different ways, I know this is not always the case, but it is in general.
In terms of book reccomendations, I often find that the books that do the best job of explaining the realistic emotions of children, are in fact, children’s books.
Here are some children’s books about kids dealing with death:
Spoilers for all the books mentioned
Up A Road Slowly
In this book a girl’s mother dies and she is sent to live with her stern Aunt and alcoholic uncle.
My Brother Sam is Dead
A lot happens in this book but a key point in it is when the MC’s dad dies and his mother turns to alcoholism
Bridge to Terabithia
A boy and a girl become best friends, and eventually the girl dies. I’m recommending this one because it does a good job of showing different stages of grief in kids and kind of how some might think. The MC goes through a big denial phase, and it also examines how children perceive death and their fear of the idea of damnation,which may or may not be applicable to your character.
I guess depends on if they’re religious or not, when I was a kid I was terrified of people I loved being sent to Hell. Catholics can have pretty strict rules about it, but as an adult I feel like I’m agnostic/atheist and find myself questioning the existence of any afterlife at all. I also find that kids tend to be more inclined towards religion than adults, they’re more willing to accept the magic of it all without question.
OOOOH! That could actually be a interesting part of your story, have the family prescribe to some religion or another, the kid could just believe it wholeheartedly, not that they need to fall to the ground and pray or anything, they just have that sense of comfort that someone is looking out for them, that they’re important, it’s all part of a plan, etc. Then they slowly become disillusioned (partially because of the Mother’s death itself and partially because of the Father’s lack of faith and his actions) and begin questioning things and losing their faith and therefore the sense of security it provides.
Walk Two Moons
This book has a character whose mother abandons the family because her father has a mental breakdown due to the death of their youngest child, and she is no on a road trip with her grandmother. We also learn that the MC is struggling with the issue of her dad dating untrustworthy women. Her grandmother also eventually dies, who the MC has grown very close to.
A Taste of Blackberries
Actually famous because of its realistic and shocking (for its time) portrayal of kids dealing with unexpected death. The MC’s friend gets stung by a bee and goes into anaphylactic shock and dies. The book is about the MC struggling with grief, loneliness, etc. and eventually comes to terms with the loss.
Here are some much shorter and simpler books that are poignant and/or might be helpful:
Michael Rosen’s Sad Book
This book was written by a famous children’s author who lost his son. He said that when he visited schools and talked about Eddie, the kids would ask how old his son was. Ronsen then had to explain that Eddie was dead, and kids would ask him a lot of questions, the kind of questions that are hard to answer. He wrote this book as a way to explain his experiences with grief and loss.
I Wish Daddy Didn’t Drink so Much
This book is realistic, but honestly terrible to give to a child for advice about dealing with alcoholic parents because it offers no help whatsoever. But like I said before, it is realistic and might help you. The father in this story is more of an abusive alcoholic than a depressed one though, so I don’t know how much it will help.
Sometimes Mommy Gets Angry
About a kid dealing with a mother who is severely bipolar. I know your character is depressed, but it shows how scared kids can get and how they deal with parents whose moods they do not understand. It also shows a kid who has to learn to take care of herself and the struggles that provides.
Just a few adult books about depression:
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
If you have never had depression it can be difficult to understand how debilitating and destructive it can be. This book is about the author’s struggle with severe clinical depression and suicidal wishes. Depression is different for everyone, and a book can only give you so much insight, but this one could help.
The Bell Jar
Another book (loosely) based on the author’s experience with depression and suicide. I highly recommend this book in general, and it provides insight into depression that is really than the depression exemplified in the other book I suggested.