Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Review: What I Did: A Novel by Christopher Wakling


Reviewed by Christine-Chioma

Published: 2012

It's about: The book is told from six-year old Billy's perspective. One day he is at the park and he runs into the middle of the street after his father repeatedly warns against it. Billy's father spanks Billy to reprimand him. A stranger sees the spanking and it turns into a series of misunderstandings.

I thought: One of the reviews on the cover says the book is "much in the vein of Atonement", which is a book I started by couldn't finish because I was so upset. It's a fairly good comparison because awful things happen in both books due to miscommunication. I stuck with this book though and I am glad that I did. I think Walking wanted readers to be frustrated and he was very effective at that--I felt mentally exhausted after finishing the book.

The author is good at capturing the way children truly think and speak. He's especially good at conveying the literal way children interpret language and their ability to tell when people are genuine. I've worked with children and so it made me consider how I communicate with them and with adults.  Some of the reviews I read mentioned that some of the details of the book seemed unrealistic. However, I assumed that Billy want not supposed to be an average 6-year old child but one with undiagnosed autism. Some of Billy's characteristics and the way he answers questions are realistic for a child with Asperger's. In a way the point of view also reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf or Rubbish Bin? In-between. It's worth reading but it's not something I'd re-read.

Reading Recommendations: One of the reviews on the cover said it was "hilarious" and I would definitely disagree. There were some amusing parts, but it's not really the book to read if you're looking for something funny. The publisher has a reading guide that has some good questions besides the obvious about spanking and it makes me think I am right about Billy having Asperger's. The photograph of the author with his family comes from an article he published about corporal punishment and is also worth reading.

Warnings: Lots of swear words.

Favorite excerpts:

"I also have to warn you that nobody is bad or good here, or rather everyone is a bit bad and a bit good and the bad and good moluscules [sic] get mixed up against each other and produce terrible chemical reactions."

"It may sound stupid talking to somebody who never says anything back because what's the point of that, but I still say words to Lizzie even though she cannot speak yet because I am doing it on purpose! It's a project. I am going to be the first person Lizzie says a word to. I know I am, because I am the one mostly filling her up with the speaking ingredients."

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review