Friday, September 26, 2014
My Life as an Alphabet
Candice Phee is twelve years old, hilariously honest and a little ... odd. But she has a big heart, the very best of intentions and an unwavering determination to ensure everyone is happy. So she sets about trying to 'fix' all the problems of all the people [and pets] in her life.
Candice has many habits which others consider "odd". The other students label her "Essen" which she knows is an abbreviation for S.N. or "Special Needs". She has few friends until she meets "Douglas Benson From Another Dimension". She is understandably concerned about her mother, who spends most of her time in her bedroom since battling the multiple traumas of the death of Candice's sister "Sky" and breast cancer. Her father has retreated to his office in response to this loss and grief, as well as a fall-out with his brother, known as Rich Uncle Brian.
This book explores a multitude of intense themes, including complex family relationships, depression, grief, suicide, labelling and accepting differences. I would be reluctant to read this with students below Year 6 due to the difficult subjects explored in this book, however the way it is told is touching, uplifting and humorous, not overly sad or morbid.
The structure of the novel is unusual, since each chapter is named corresponding to a letter of the alphabet in accordance with an English assignment Candice has been set. It is told by a first person narrator and often includes letters to Candice's pen-pal, Denille. The language is frequently sophisticated due to Candice's love of reading the dictionary, but also contains typical childish expressions and explanations. This book could be paired with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time for comparison with other texts with idiosyncratic narrators and characters.