Google+ Bookslingers Blog: Selective Amnesia: Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am

Selective Amnesia: Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am

Straight up: This is not my kind of book.

I am not an avid reader of contemporary/war/army/issues teen fiction.  But Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am by Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis won the Schneider Family Book Award in the Young Adult category. And being the good little librarian that I am, I thought I should probably take a look.

And it was super short so I figured it couldn't be too bad.

This is the book laughing at my expectations
It's the last day of high school for Ben Bright. Charming, smart, well-liked Ben Bright who is destined for great things. He's staring in the school production of The West Wide Story with his best girl, Ariela, and his best friend, Niko. His whole life seems perfect.

Then Ben drops a bombshell: Instead of going to college, he's going to boot camp. He's enlisted with the reservists.

And then the worst happens (because it is that sort of book). Ben is shipped out to Iraq and caught in insurgent explosion that results in brain damage. And everyone else has to pick of the pieces of their lives and figure out who they are with the new Ben.

I can appreciate that this book wasn't written for me. It takes a very pro-military stance to start. Ben's sacrifice is ultimately seen as noble although I was at no point convinced as to why he was making this choice. There is little to no real discussion or push back from the people in Ben's life. There's mention of "scripted-sounding antiwar screeds" but everyone seemingly accepts this remarkable choice with little fuss.

The other issue I took with Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am was the roving third person POV. You didn't really spend enough time with any character to get to know them on anything but a superficial level. Character felt like a description in a dramatis personae instead of people. Ariela was the Tragic Girlfriend Fiance on the Home Front. Niko was the Supportive BFF. Chris was the Brother With Autism. And everyone behaved perfectly. No one found it too much to deal with - not to say that there wasn't angst. But everything on the page didn't accurately reflect the change that their lives went through because of Ben's brain injury.

The subject is well worth reading more about. What happens when the soldier comes home? And considering how young many of these returning soldiers may be, it is a topic for YA lit to grapple with for years to come. But perhaps in the hands of writers with more depth and skills.