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Novelist tackles depression in latest work
By Nadia Malik | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/3/2008 12:05 AM

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For three weeks while at Buffalo Grove High School, Julie Halpern was put in a hospital to treat her depression.

She had been having panic attacks and couldn't make it to school or sit through her classes.

The former Buffalo Grove resident used that experience as the basis for her novel "Get Well Soon," which follows teenager Anna Bloom through her time in a mental hospital.

"I had such strong memories of when I was in the hospital," Halpern said. "Still 15 years later, I remember it so vividly."

Halpern said the time made her angry, which might have actually helped her overcome her depression because it was something new to focus on.

The 33-year-old now works as a librarian for a middle school in Winnetka and has authored other children's books, which her husband, Matt, illustrated.

This is her first novel for teenagers, and Halpern said she'd like to continue in that genre.

The characters in the novel are based on the same people she met while in the hospital, but she said the more she worked on the book, the more fictional it became.

"I just wanted to write about it because it was my experience and not necessarily because I thought it was important," Halpern said. "The whole experience just made me more of an independent person."

The book has earned her the Ken Book Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Halpern said she's gotten feedback from both adults and teenagers, especially the ones in her school.

"It's connected me to several students that I feel like I wasn't connected to before," she said.

However, a lot of teenagers just like the story because it's funny, she said, while adults are more focused on the serious side of the topic.

"Teenagers who e-mail me also are concerned about the romance in the book," she said. "The book's not all that serious. I think it's good to be able to deal with things with humor."

Halpern is currently working on her second novel, which will also star teenagers.

For more information on her work, visit www.juliehalpern.com. "Get Well Soon" is available at bookstores for $16.95.