5 Reasons Why I’m Publishing a 2nd Edition of Dead Serious, A Book First Published 30 Years Ago

Jane Leder, Author

2nd edition of Dead Serious

After 30 years, why write a 2nd edition of  Dead Serious, a book about teen suicide (Atheneum/Avon)?  Hasn’t the subject been thoroughly covered?  Aren’t the library shelves loaded with other books on the subject?  Aren’t online book sites like Amazon brimming with competing titles?

The answer is “No,” “No,” and “No.”

Reason #1:  Sure, there are many other books about teen suicide that have been written in the past three decades.  But there is always room for more.  After a dip in the number of teens taking their own lives, a 2015 National Center for Health Statistics study reported that the suicide rate among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 reached a 40-year high.  Between 2007 and 2015, the suicide rate for those girls doubled.  For young males, there was a 31 percent increase.  Those statistics alone are reasons for writing and publishing a 2nd edition.

Reason #2:  Home computers were laughably primitive when I wrote the 1st edition of Dead Serious.  Not until the mid-1980s when the first word processor was introduced did regular folks begin to see the real benefits of owning a home computer.  For most kids, it was the availability of games—albeit mere precursors of today’s games—that was the main attraction.  The World Wide Web wouldn’t be available until 1989.  The term “surfing the net” didn’t hit our lexicon until 1992.  Back in 1987, people actually communicated by making a phone call or writing a letter.  Unlike today where so much is done electronically (and, in some cases, anonymously), kids at the end of the 1980s talked face-to-face.  Their social skills were well honed.  They could “read” cues like facial expressions, body gestures, and tone of voice, whereas today’s teens are often stymied when they put down their electronic devises.

Reason #3:  There were no cell phones.  No texting.  No social media.  A site like Facebook didn’t launch until 2004.  Before then, problems like bullying were confined to school or to the neighborhood.  Home was a safe zone.  Bullying stopped at the front door.  Once inside, victims didn’t have to worry about nasty text messages, Facebook postings, Instagram photos, tweets on Twitter—the list goes on.  (Sure, teens today can shut down all social media and turn off their cell phones.  Fat chance!)

Reason #4:  Back in 1987, gay teens (and adults) were in the proverbial “closet.”  Talk about gender and sexual identity in schools—everywhere, for that matter—was too risky.  It was illegal and, in some states, a crime to marry someone of the same sex.  In 1996, President Clinton signed the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.  And nowhere on TV or in the movies could LGBTQ teens (Acronyms that have been expanding more recently) see images of themselves.  There were no role models.  They had to go it alone.

Reason #5:  As with issues of gender and sexuality, talking about sexual abuse, self-harming and suicide was taboo.  Only now, are we seeing a groundswell of women who are sharing their stories of sexual abuse.  And with a TV series like “13 Reasons Why” (a series with which I have a lot of problems,) the topic of teen suicide is, some would say, encouraging a national discussion.  But the stigma that hovers over suicide has not abated.  Many suicides are officially ruled as “accidents.”

So, why did I write a 2nd edition of Dead Serious (with a new subtitle: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide)?  Let me count the ways.

Books About Brothers and Sisters: For Parents

There are a host of books about brothers and sisters for parents.  When the topic of brothers and sisters is raised, the operative response is “sibling rivalry.”  Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish’s, authors of the bestseller Siblings Without Rivalry, discuss the focus groups they ran and the questionnaires they compiled.  They discovered (not much of a surprise!) that sibling rivalry was the number-one leading concern of parents.


Parents, they wrote, were often overwhelmed and at a loss at how to “help their children live together so they could live too.”

And in my book about brothers and sisters, The Sibling Connection: How Brothers and Sisters Shape Our Lives, I offer help for parents who want to curb the fighting/rivalry between their children.

However, I argue, that the sibling relationship is deep and layered.  It is potentially life’s longest-lasting family relationship and rarely static.  It changes over time.  Siblings outlive their parents on average by twenty to thirty years. What may be a contentious, competitive relationship with our brothers and sisters can become a close, important one as we age.


Our siblings can be the only intimate connections that seems to last.  Friends and neighbors may move away, former coworkers are often forgotten, marriages end in divorce, but our brothers and sisters remain our brothers and sisters. We can’t shake them, no matter how hard we try.









Childhood is the time when siblings spend the most time together under the same roof.  Parents are an important factor in how their children get along. Parents can help their children foster close, supportive relationships by:

  • Allow children to settle their quarrels.  Research has shown that the more parents intervene. the more siblings fight.  When parents send their children to separate rooms, for example, they don’t learn how to make deals, to compromise.  Quarreling can be quite healthy.
  • Avoid the tendency to label one child as the “good” kid and another “bad.”  The “bad” child always gets blamed for trouble, while the “good” child gets away with murder.  This sets up a lot of anger for the “bad” child toward both his/her sibling(s) and parents.
  • Honor the different temperaments of children.  Temperamental differences can fuel fighting, particularly if at least one child is highly active or impulsive.  It’s not unusual for parents to have trouble differentiating between who children are and how they behave.  Often it is the difference in temperament that is especially annoying or particularly appealing.  Yet few parents can admit that they may like one child more than another at any given time.
  • Recognize that what affects one child usually affects the others.  And what affects parents is usually passed on to their children, though, most likely in different ways.

Childhood is a practice ground for future relationships with one another and with others.  Brothers and sisters learn to love, share, negotiate, start and end fights, hurt others, save face.  Parents have tools at their disposal to encourage healthy connections that last.



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A Sibling Quiz





  1. How much time did you spend with your siblings growing up?

a)    A lot

b)    Not as much as I would have liked

c)    Very little

d)    None at all


  1. Did both of your parents work outside of the home?

a)    Yes

b)    Only my dad

c)    Only my mom

d)    One or both worked off and on

  1. How did you get along with your siblings?

a)    Extremely well

b)    Okay

c)    Not great

d)    Terribly

  1. What activities did you and your siblings share?

a)    Everything

b)    Sports/Other

c)    Academics

d)    Music

  1. How would you rate your parents’ (parent’s) discipline?

a)    Very strict

b)    Inconsistent

c)    Lax

d)    What discipline?

  1. How often did your parents encourage you to get along with your siblings?

a)    All the time

b)    Regularly

c)    Rarely

d)    Not at all

  1. Did you or someone else take care of your younger sibling(s)? If you are an only child or a younger sib, who took care of you?

a)    Yes. I was responsible more than I would have liked

b)    I sometimes took care of my siblings

c)    Rarely. We usually had a babysitter

d)    Never

  1. If a sibling were bullied and/or physically harmed, you would:

a)    Step in immediately to help

b)    Let him/her work it out without my help

c)    Tell a parent

d)    Post on Facebook or other social media sites

  1. Did your family take an annual vacation? How did it go? If you didn’t spend time together away from home, how was family time at home?

a)    We had a blast

b)    I was bored out of my mind

c)    My sibling(s) and I fought all the time

d)    I will never take another family vacation

  1. If you’re an adult, how do you get along with your siblings?

a)    We’re best friends and help each other out as much as possible

b)    We see each other occasionally

c)    We don’t agree on much of anything

d)    We are estranged


If you had 9 to 10 a’s, you enjoy a very close and supportive relationship with your sibling(s).


If you had 7 or 8 a’s, your relationship with your sib(s) has played a role in your life, mostly positive.


If you scored 6 or 5 a’s, you and your sib(s) are distant and don’t have much in common.


If you scored 4 to 0 a’s, you have a very conflicted or nonexistent connection with your sib(s).

How did you do?  Surprised?  

According to one large study, two-thirds of people said a brother or sister was one of their best friends. Jill Suitor, a sociologist at Purdue University, and her colleagues polled 274 families with 708 adult children (ages twenty-three to sixty-eight) in 2009 and found that the majority had good feelings toward their siblings.