Saturday, June 07, 2008

Book Four: This is What I Did by Ann Dee Ellis

I probably should have made my days Friday and Saturday. This is the first chance I've had to work on the challenge today

reading: 10:55pm to 11:55pm (1 hour), 157 pages
writing: 4:00 pm to 4:55pm (55 minutes)

This is What I Did: by Ann Dee Ellis. Little, Brown, 2007 (978-0-316-01363-5) $16.99

I'm glad I can show the cover of this book here, because I think it could be considered part of the title--that colon is quite deliberate. A lot of this book is about not saying anything, and how in a way, that is still saying something.

This... is a sort of mystery--it's a little reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time in spots--and I have to confess that I read ahead to discover the secret, because the suspenseful slow reveal was just killing me. Once I knew what had actually happened, I was able to settle down and enjoy reading. Narrated by thirteen year old Logan, it is a terse, disturbing story, told in dribs and drabs of statements and reported dialogue, a far bit of which is blank:

Patsy: You must be Logan.
Patsy: Well, I've got a son your exact age. His name is Bruce.
Patsy: You are just going to love him. He's a doll.
Patsy: Are you okay?

Logan does talk, some of the time, but much of his life is spent not knowing what to do or say; particularly now, when he is burdened both by being a target of severe bullying and by tremendous guilt about a time in his life when he failed to act.

Logan writes in short vignettes, which are separated by small graphics on each page. There's a kicker at the end of almost each one, such as this:

He was sort of riding slower than usual.
I should have guessed then.
I should have known something was going to happen.
Why did it have to happen, Zyler?

That example is one I thought a bit overdone for effect, but mostly the style is very effective. It feels like we're in someone else's mind, a mind which moves a little differently than ours perhaps.. It works to draw us into an outsider's perspective and create empathy for someone we might otherwise despise a little.

This... is a shocking story at times, and also very sad, but very worth reading. The ending has a triumphant aspect, but is far from pat. Although Logan has no diagnosis (that we are told about, anyway), I think it would be especially interesting to readers looking for stories about special needs kids, and/or about bullying, though it could be enjoyed by most readers just as a suspenseful and emotional read. * (13 & up)

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