Monday, March 25, 2013

What I Did, by Christopher Wakling

Billy is a six year old boy, living with his parents.  Billy loves animals, to the point of being fixated on them.  He intersperses animal facts into everyday conversations.  On a trip to a local park, Billy, while acting like an animal, runs away from his father.  This incident escalates when a stranger, disapproving of the method Billy's father chooses for reprimanding the boy, turns the family in to child protective services.  From there, things escalate at an alarming rate.

I really wanted to like this book.  The concept of the book was pretty brilliant, I think, in showing the story from the child's point of view.  However, Billy proves to be an unreliable, and often unlikable, narrator.  Aspects of the narration that are meant to be charming, such as Billy's word confusion and his inability to stay on topic, end up being very annoying and distracting.  I have read other books using a child as a narrator where it is done in an engaging and endearing way.  This leads me to believe it is not the child as narrator technique I dislike, but rather the way it is executed in this book.

I find it very hard to connect with Billy as a character, despite the fact that his is the main voice in the story.  His fixation on animals made the narrative rather sprawling, and at times difficult to follow, because he would go off on frequent tangents.  Also, I found the child to be a bit of a brat and rather tiresome.  

I am left torn regarding the action of the story.  I am unable to determine if I should be angry that the family is put through this ordeal based simply on the nonsensical ramblings of a child and the observations of a stranger, or whether the child protection agency handles the situation appropriately.  Since Billy proves to be an unreliable narrator, I am left wondering what really did happen in this family.  But then I realize I was never engaged enough in the book to actually care.

I received a review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine program in exchange for my honest review.




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