CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 27. . . .March 18, 2016
Frederick is a 16 year old boy with Aspergerís Syndrome who is trying to understand how he got into trouble with the police while helping his friend, Angel. The first half of Donít Tell, Donít Tell, Donít Tell is told from his first person perspective while the second half continues from Angelís first person voice:
In the beginning, readers learn from Frederickís perspective that Angel has planned to run away to a friendís house in a city where she used to live, seemingly because she is a victim of school bullying, as Frederick is. Because he promised not to tell anyone her scheme, he takes a bus to try and find her when it appears that something has gone wrong. When he cannot locate her, he returns home, only to discover that Angel is hiding in a forest area behind his house. Thatís where the story continues from Angelís perspective as she eventually confides her secret to ďKalĒóthe nickname she has for Frederick.
The real reason Angel left town is one of the things that makes this book stand apart from other available teen reads, and it involves a backstory of sexual assault that has left the character vulnerable, disgusted, and somehow feeling responsible even though she had been drinking and doesnít remember all of the details. A plotline about someone who makes poor decisions but ultimately must learn to assign blame to an assaultís perpetrators is an original story for the intended age group and certainly worth sharing.
Frederickís character is developed with maximum attention to the nuances of Aspergerís Syndrome, and he is both likeable and complex. A snag related to the authenticity of this character, however, involves pacing and story comprehensionóboth sacrificed to some extent while his mile a minute brain goes off on tangents.
The move into Angelís perspective is also accompanied by difficulties. Although the typeface changes as readers move into her first person account, this isnít a clear indicator of a new narrator, nor are readers easily aware that this second voice will stay with the novel until the last chapter. Other signals are recommended to assist readers through what might be a somewhat rocky transition for some.
Bev Brenna is a literacy professor at the University of Saskatchewan who has 10 published books for young people.
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