Sunday, 3 March 2013

You Know What You Have to Do By Bonnie Shimko

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Published: March 26 2013
Amazon Children's Publishing
Website: Author’s Website

Mary-Magdalene Feigenbaum (Maggie) is a snarky and humorous teen protagonist. Her over-the-top mother and her funeral director step-father gave her a more interesting life than most teens have. This YA fiction is set in contemporary times, complete with email and iPhones. Maggie is living a normal teenager life when her head begins to throb. A man’s voice in her head tells her to do something unthinkable. It tells her to kill bad people.

I love this book. The writing is wonderful with Maggie’s first-person narration. She has only one real friend and she knows why. Her inner dialogue is true to her age. She sounds and acts like a teenager, which I appreciate immensely. The writing is fluid throughout the entire book. The first paragraph had me hooked and I devoured the book in a night. I was never bored. When long stretches of time need to pass, the author jumps ahead instead of giving us needless filler or making the events of the story happen in too-short a time span.

The premise of the novel is fantastic for those who appreciate a good horror and suspense story. The voice in her head demands that she do these acts. She herself is not a bad person. The emotional connection to her and her plight resonated strongly within me. Sure, we all know that killing people is “bad.” But what if the people she is murdering are “bad”? And then we wonder if the voice will take it to the next level and have her killing good people. The suspense is excellent and it kept me reading it until it was finished. Shimko does an excellent job of blending these elements just right for a teen audience.

Hero or Anti-hero
I found the blurry line that the protagonist walks between hero and anti-hero to be absolutely delicious. I know that some people are absolutely frightened about routing for an anti-hero. I’m not because I’m not a potato. Not everything you’re going to read in life is going to be black and white. If you are an actual reader, you’ll encounter protagonists that you dislike because of their morals and actions. If you have some level of intelligence, you’ll love Maggie like I did. Maggie’s plight is complex and requires reflection and sympathy.  

Secondary Story/Characters
            The secondary plots and characters are amazing. I loved each story involving her best friend Abigail, the boy Lester, her mother Roxie, her step-father Harry, her birth father, and her shrink. Honestly, there are no throw-away characters. Each subplot relates to typical YA problems that Maggie, and therefore the intended reader, confronts in their lives. The big one is boys and setting boundaries. These issues are handled realistically.  

The ending was a little soft for me, but it is acceptable, if you think about the story as a whole. A big, overly-dramatic end wouldn’t fit the mostly quiet book.  The entire book is so good, I am going to say that it was too short, because I’m nice like that.

            If you are an intelligent reader who likes the issues presented in Judy Blume, but prefer a homicidal twist, you’ll fall into a deep pit of love with this book. Excellently written, fast-paced, contemporary, realistic, and Shimko employs a superb use of horror and suspense for a YA audience. I cannot recommend this book enough to people who like to root for the anti-hero. It would make an excellent YA book club pick and is sure to generate discussion.