Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Murder of Bindy MacKenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty

This was an interesting book. About half way through I almost gave up on it. I dislike books about teens that are socially inept, because I was a socially inept teen and reading about them brings back bad memories and makes me feel embarrassed about myself all over again. I stuck it out and finished the book. There were some things I liked about this book, and others that didn't quite work for me.

In the book, Bindy is really brilliant and she likes doing well at school. She is a bit arrogant, so none of the other kids like her much and are often unkind to her. All of her life she tries to be nice, anyway, but her junior year she decides to fight back and tell all the kids in her FAB class (social skills class) just what she thinks of them. Of course, that just makes things worse. As the year continues she begins to let her school work slip. She is often sick and becomes spacey and disoriented. During the same time, she begins to figure out how arrogant she has been, and starts building tentative friendships with the other kids. Then the book goes cock-eyed. The kids in her FAB group begin to believe that the reason she is so sick and spacey is because she has been poisoned. The question of whether she is poisoned or not takes up the last third of the book.

What I liked about the book was how well the author represented Bindy's fall into mental illness. It was an interesting psychological study. She also did a good job portraying the other kids. She manages to make it clear how Bindy could think of them as horrible, when they really were pretty normal kids. Something that didn't work was the format of the book. It was written as if it were a collection of documents, rather than a narrative. Some of it is Bindy's journal, but other are supposed to be memos and phone messages that characters write to each other. Also, Moriarty has Bindy write "transcripts" of what other people say. It is just too improbable. Teens don't really write memos to each other and copy down transcripts of what other people are saying, even really smart teens. Avi did a better job of using documents to tell a story in his book Nothing But the Truth.

This is definitely a teen book, not recommended for anyone under 13 or so. Some teens might really like it, but I wasn't really won over. (494 p)

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