Young Adult Literature


Simon Says
by Elaine Marie Alphin


Grade 8 Up-In this psychological novel, Charles enters a boarding school for the arts hoping to find a place where he can stay true to his nonconformist nature. Absorbed with painting in a vivid and distorted way, he wants to make friends with people who like him for himself and teachers who will accept his work. As in the children's game Simon Says, he finds himself mirroring others rather than pleasing himself. Charles knows that Graeme, a student writer whom he idolizes, shares a search for identity. Excerpts from Graeme's journal appear at intervals, revealing a parallel childhood. Elements of a homosexual crush draw the two together but the path to self-realization has a tragic end when Graeme commits suicide. As in many YA novels, the adults here are peripheral and antagonistic, providing a perfect setting for self-perceived isolation. Charles's musical roommate, Adrian, and the editor of the student journal, Rachel, are well-developed supporting characters who, as grounded individuals, become the ones who ultimately help the protagonist feel a sense of belonging. Plot development is emotional rather than eventful, and some of the details surrounding Graeme's death are not plausible. It defies logic that, in a small boarding school, Charles would learn about the teen's "fatal heart attack" from the newspaper. Still, adolescents will relate to the disconnected characters who feel painfully alone and will be encouraged by the acceptance of their uniqueness.
Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.