Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Life/Murder of Bindy MacKenzie

Moriarty, Jaclyn. 2006. The Murder of Bindy MacKenzie.

Yesterday I reviewed THE YEAR OF SECRET ASSIGNMENTS by Jaclyn Moriarty. I loved that book. I thought it was fun. It was clever. It was unique. It was worthy of recommending to anybody and everybody who enjoys the genre of young adult literature. Perhaps because I enjoyed it so much, I expected a bit too much from the companion novel/sequel entitled THE MURDER OF BINDY MACKENZIE. Although they take place in the same high school, Ashbury High, they only share a few traits. While THE YEAR OF SECRET ASSIGNMENTS had multiple narrators and multiple plot lines, and employed various means of communication (letters, emails, diary entries, bulletin boards, etc.), THE MURDER OF BINDY MACKENZIE was told primarily through the eyes of its heroine: Bindy MacKenzie. Bindy played a small role, one of comic relief, in THE YEAR OF SECRET ASSIGNMENTS. Readers were quick to catch on to the fact that Bindy was an annoyingly perfect, goody two shoes, the type that would volunteer to do extra homework over the summer or the type to remind teachers that they've forgotten to assign the class any homework. Bindy, in other words, is a solitary soul who doesn't rate high with her classmates because she's too perky, too ready to help, too eager to be liked, too much of everything.

Well, it is one year later, the beginning of Year 11 (THE YEAR OF SECRET ASSIGNMENTS takes place during the course of Year 10), and this time the reader sees Ashbury High through the eyes of its overachiever, Bindy MacKenzie. A girl with almost no friends who feels that she is so above her peers (in intelligence, in maturity, etc) and reassures herself that THEY are just not ready to connect with her. It's their problem, not hers. Since the novel is told only through her eyes, well 98% through her eyes, the reader can get more than a little annoyed with its narrator. I have no doubt that they'll recognize her self-obsession quite quickly.

Essentially, the plot of THE MURDER OF BINDY MACKENZIE is that she is so annoying, so irritating, that somewhere along the way she has made a few enemies, enemies that might even go so far as to try to kill her. The list of suspects is long, but by that point she's begun to thaw out or relax enough to make some friends--not close friends, not best friends, but a small group of people she can talk to and share with. I will not ruin this review by giving the specifics of any of the murder plots or if the aforementioned schemes are successful. That wouldn't be fair to anybody.

The reasons I am less enthused about THE MURDER OF BINDY MACKENZIE are complex. First, I think the plot, the characters, the situations, etc. are less funny. Bindy was more funny when we were seeing her through someone else's eyes. Bindy herself doesn't have much of a sense of humor. She doesn't write things in a comical way. Her view of the world as she reports it is rarely entertaining and funny. Second, the lack of variety. Bindy's log of her daily life can be tedious. There just isn't the spark of life or friendship as with THE YEAR OF SECRET ASSIGNMENTS. No variety. No fun. No comraderie. Third, I felt even when Bindy began to make a few friends...the novel lacked something. It was too outlandish. Too unbelievable. Too bizarre or absurd. This is not to say that it is a bad book. It's not. It may have a loyal fanbase that loves it. But I can only say that I enjoyed it half as much as the first, THE YEAR OF SECRET ASSIGNMENTS.

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