There’s a chapter in this book about the death of a child because of Cot Death. As a new mum, had I known that before I started reading it, I probably wouldn’t have. Which would have been a real shame, because this is an absolutely wonderful book, and the joy I got from reading it by far outweighed that sick/new mum feeling that I get whenever someone mentions SIDS.
Candice Phee is one of the strangest characters I’ve encountered in a while. But she’s strange in a good way (particularly if you’re a reader). She’s got a lot of friends (if you ask her, but not so many if you ask everyone else). She has a fish called Earth-Pig Fish (whose name would have just been Earth-Pig but she didn’t want to be responsible for the resulting identity crisis). She has a friend (who reciprocates the friendship) who is Douglas Benson From Another Dimension (that one’s pretty self explanatory really). She makes people laugh without having any idea how she’s doing it. And this is the story of her life, told through the 26 letters of the alphabet.
My Life as an Alphabet is everything that you want a book to be, and I do mean everything. It’s funny – like, laugh out loud and read-the-funny-bits-to-the-person-next-to-you funny, strange, clever, sad, thoughtful, whimsical, and mature. Friendships are formed. Lives are saved. Letters are written.
This is one of those books in that genre that is squeezing it’s way out between junior fiction and young adult. Think Angel Creek and When You Reach Me. It’s the genre that deals with characters just at the peak of adolescence, but with just enough leftover naivety that they believe that magic can happen. And sometimes by believing it, perhaps it can.
I love this genre, because as an older reader it becomes less of a story about every day events and more of a fable – a reminder of unflinchingly looking to the future and knowing that it would all work out. There’s so much hope in books for this age. Even the sad chapters (such as the one mentioned at the beginning of this review) are taken in the matter-of-factual stride that 10-12-year-olds seem to possess.
I finished My Life as an Alphabet and I wanted to read it all over again. Barry Jonsberg is a gem.