Saturday, January 12, 2013

Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I am by Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis

From the publisher:
Ben lives a charmed life - effortlessly landing the lead in the high school musical, dating the prettiest girl in school.  When he decides to enlist in the army, no one thinks he'll be in read danger.  But his decision has devastating consequences: His convoy get caught in an explosion, and Ben ends up in a coma for two months.  When he wakes up, he doesn't know where he is - or remember anything about his old life.  His family and friends mourn what they see as a loss, but Ben perseveres.  And as he triumphs, readers will relate to this timely novel that pairs the action and adventure of the best war stories with the emotional elements of struggle and transformation.

My Thoughts:
I have always like Harry Mazer's books, especially his World War II Boy at War series.  Mazer was an underage enlistee in WWII and knows what he writes about.  Now Harry, together with Peter Lerangis, tackles the Iraq War, a war still fresh in our minds as is the on-going war in Afghanistan.

Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am is written in three parts.  The first part, Before, is the shortest and briefly explores who Ben Bright is, why he made his decision to enlist and the impact it has on those closest to him.  As he is leaving on the train for Boot Camp, he proposes to Ariela, his long-time girlfriend.

The second part, During, is somewhat longer and covers Ben's time serving in Iraq, the bomb that causes him to suffer a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and, of course, the feelings and reactions of his friends, family and Ariela, now his fiancée, when they hear about his injuries.

After is the third and longest part of the story.  Ben's family and friends struggle to come to terms with the way Ben is now, while he must relearn everything, including his memories.  It is a hard struggle and takes its toll on everyone, but there is also a message of hope in this tragedy.

The duo of Mazer and Lerangis shine in Somebody, Tell Me Who I Am.  By not focusing only on Ben, we see that one person's decision, however noble it may be, and the resulting consequences have serious repercussions on the lives of everyone involved.  Oddly enough, Ben has the least amount of action in the novel, in fact, he is almost only a catalyst for his injury, since it is really his TBI that has the real impact on those around him.

Ben's story is a very poignant and very disturbing without being morbidly graphic.  It is well-written and completely realistic.  The characters are believable, compelling and strong and the transition from one point of view to another happens very smoothly.

Ben's story will probably resonate for a lot of young people whose siblings, cousins, friends, husbands or wives may have served in one of this country's wars recently.  And as a result, there are families all over the country whose loved ones may have suffered a traumatic injury while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.  This short, but complex story deals with so many of the issues they are facing for real.  And, at a time when there is talk about cutting veteran's benefits and services, I think this novel is certainly food for thought.

This book is recommended for readers 12+
This book was purchased for my personal library.

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