Monthly Archives: January 2008

“The Diary of Pelly D” by L.J. Adlington


Going in, I knew "The Diary of Pelly D" was a sci fi novel about a futuristic society on a distant planet in which all of humanity (well, ok, humanity with gills … work with me here!) was lab-created from three lines of genes. I figured it would be a typical "future dystopia" novel, that is, a story about a future world in which society is negative, restrictive, or otherwise oppressive. But "The Diary of Pelly D" is so much more than that; it is nothing less than a story about the Holocaust, although cast as a sci fi novel.

We start right off with 14 year-old Toni V working on a demolition gang in City Five, clearing away the rubble of the main plaza following a devastating war. During the blasting, Toni V finds a diary in an empty water can. Although forbidden to do so — workers are to immediately turn over any written relics to authorities — he takes it back to his barracks-like dormitory and secretly reads it each night.

Pelly D's diary starts out in a pretty ordinary fashion. She's a rich, bratty, spoiled girl. Her days are mostly filled with shopping, flirting, and lounging in her holo-pool or fooling around at Water World (again, these folks are like us but they have gills, so water is a crucial element for their survival). Slowly, though, the diary comes to reflect the very troubled times in City Five. The general of their sister city, City One, begins to claim that his city is suffering from a crippling water shortage. Allegedly to speed the irrigation project along, the general begins summoning members of the "lesser" gene lines to City One, including Pelly D's best friend, who is never seen or heard from again. What follows is forced genetic testing, a literal branding of people's hands according to their gene line, unthinkable restrictions of basic freedoms, communication blackouts, fear, suspicion, and violence. What's great is that all this repression occurs so gradually that, like Pelly D, you'll find yourself shocked at how completely her society has broken down.

This novel reads very quickly, as Toni V's life conducting backbreaking manual labor in present-day City Five is interspersed with the actual pages from Pelly D's diary. Pelly D writes in a modified text-speak, so all you teen readers should be well accustomed to her style. While Toni V's character remains a bit distant, Pelly D really comes to life through the pages of her diary. You will find yourself pulled into this story about a world that looks all too much like our own, and in which quietly awful things happen while ostensibly good people turn the other way. I found this book to be absolutely devastating, and, if you're at all like me, the ending will stay with you long after you're finished. I strongly recommend this book to any readers, boys or girls, in about grade 7 or up, particularly those who are fans of books like "The Giver," "House of the Scorpion," or Scott Westerfeld's "Uglies" series. If you give it a chance, I think you'll take a lot away from "The Diary of Pelly D."

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Posted by on January 7, 2008 in Uncategorized


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“Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You” by Peter Cameron


"Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You," author Peter Cameron's first novel for teens, appears on a few "Best of 2007" lists, including those put out by Publishers Weekly, Horn Book, and Needless to say, I had pretty high expectations for this dark, ironic, yet oddly sincere story of 18 year-old James Sveck. Sadly, those expectations weren't quite met. Maybe it was just too much hype?

Ok, so here's the basic plot outline, although, be warned, not too much happens in this story. Basically, James is spending the summer before his freshman year at Brown University working in his mom's NYC art gallery. The gallery, by the way, features garbage can art produced by an artist who has renounced names, and, not too surprisingly, James has lots of free time on his hands. At night, James roams the Internet looking at Midwestern houses (of all things!), envisioning a life away from college, NYC, and, above all else, people his own age. See, James is a true introvert, and he often feels so uncomfortable around his peers that he's reduced to what honestly can be described as terror. As the story unfolds, we learn that during an American Classroom trip to Washington, DC, James freaked out from the sheer pressure of having to be social and engage the other teens on the trip. In fact, as becomes clear, James is suffering from not just a stifling depression but also a severe and nearly complete sense of alienation from all people and things.

While this novel is beautifully written (among others, there's a wonderful passage where James describes the purity of thoughts and the compromise of language), the bottom line is that the entire story takes place in James' head. What we have is essentially a series of observations, reminisces, frustrations, and fears, very few of which are grounded in any real action. As such, although James is a fascinating character, this book is often challenging — if not downright boring — to read. I can't imagine there are many teenagers who would be interested enough to even finish the book, which is a shame. If there are some older, high school age teens out there interested in a sort of "Catcher in the Rye" style story, you might want to give this book a try. However, for those looking for a story about a teen boy facing the challenges of depression, Ned Vizzini's "It's Kind of a Funny Story" is, in my opinion, a much stronger choice.


Posted by on January 3, 2008 in Uncategorized


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