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This Is What I Did by Ann Dee Ellis
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Feb 17, 08

Read in February, 2008

** spoiler alert ** My experience as a parent definitely colors my opinion of "This is what I did." The book is written from the perspective of a 13-year-old boy in his words. The style is intriguing and often humorous. He writes it as a way to come to terms with an experience that has left him numb and inactive. Naturally, it takes a while for him to come to the point. What I found interesting is his inability to integrate socially. I'm not sure the author intended it this way, but to me he seems to have Asperger's Syndrome, with all of the intellect and social miscues that come with it. It fits with the author's theme of the inability to act when action is required.

Logan documents his inability to fit in early in his life. His only friend is also a misfit, but of a different type. Zyler comes from an abusive home and others are wary of him because of it, but Logan doesn't recognize that. To him, Zyler is cool because of his rude shirts and his ability to run fast. As they grow, they learn to accept and overlook each other's shortcomings, and Logan learns some of the social skills necessary to function at school. If he is not totally accepted, at least he is not totally rejected either. Through this his parents are oblivious to his differences and struggles until it becomes too obvious. It was very easy for me to sympathize their struggle to give their son the help he needs. However, while I can understand his confusion in social situations, the feelings of being overwhelmed by emotions and unfamiliar and confusing situations, Logan's parents were both popular at school and seemed to swim the social currents without effort. They wouldn't be able to understand the awkwardness, the abandonment of peers, the pain of being left or even attacked when all he was doing was trying to get by.

Laural is the first person in Logan's life who seems to understand him. It's not because she has some insight, or really not because she actually understands him. Rather, she is very much like him. Her actions and mannerisms put her in the same untouchable social sphere where Logan resides, and her persecutions are similar. But rather than acting too little, she acts too much, which marks her as a "freak" rather than a "moron." (If you want a literary exercise, compare/contrast Laural to Star Girl. Why is each the way she is. What makes them different.) But this gives them balance when they are together. This balance is marked by their palindrome conversations, which are central in symbolizing the contrasts in the story.

"This is what I did" is sweet in its innocence and harsh in its cruelty. The manipulators are as cunning as the manipulated oblivious. Yet when it comes down to it, we are all swimming the same stream. But we don't have the same challenges. While we might all get dunked occasionally, some get dunked more often and don't have the skills or strength of others. But sometimes, those who struggle the most are the ones who understand the best . . . without knowing it. That happens for Logan near the climax of the book, in a small way, with many others standing around.

"This is what I did" is a great book for looking at the world through another's eyes. Especially through the eyes of those who are bullied or ignored. In that way it could make a wonderful book for middle-aged readers. However, it is very dark and disturbing in places, and it is quite negative throughout. But Logan's ability to rise above the negativity and abuse leaves you feeling a hope for him. For me, it was helpful to have the reminder that somebody with Asperger's syndrome can have a fairly normal life. It's gaining acceptance from those around him that is the difficult part.
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Joana I was a book I read for book group and it wasn't the best book.


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