Sunday, 6 June 2010

They told me I had to write this: brief review

On this week's reading list was They told me I had to write this by first time Australian author Kim Miller. I picked it because it's aimed at young adults and deals with memory and trauma. Narrated in the first person, it's an epistolary novel, is a format that I don't often warm to (I think I was put off it by Marsden's Dear Miffy, which was not one of his best).

The book is a series of letters written by Clem to his grandmother. Clem's age isn't specified but I'd guess it at around 14, and he's a boy with a troubled past who is attending a school for boys who have failed in the mainstream schooling system. Clem's voice is clear, honest and convincing and through the letters which basically operate as a diary, he works through the issues that have been plaguing him. I won't go into the plot too much to spoil it but rest assured Clem gets to the bottom of his problems and finds a way through them.

They told me I had to write this is published by Ford Street Publishing, (coincidentally they also published Crossing the Line, another 'trauma' book which I've just started). Miller's novel deals sensitively with a difficult topic and the honesty of the voice rings true throughout the novel so it both acknowledges and respects the intense pain that the character of Clem experiences. In turn, it provides a way through for any readers that may have experienced the same trauma.

It's a good little book that I believe achieves what it sets out to, that is, to give honest expression to a child's trauma and show that it is possible to heal the hurt. For my research purposes, however, it's probably aimed at a slightly younger age group and would have been better suited to my master's thesis than my upcoming work. But I'm glad I read it and congratulate Miller on writing a book that deals with a senstive topic with genuine respect, honesty, empathy and just the right amount of humour.