Title: Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am
Author: Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis
Ben has always had it pretty easy--with no acting experience, he landed the lead in his high school musical, and he's dating the prettiest girl in school. Haunted by memories of 9/11, he makes the decision to enlist in the army--with devastating consequences. Somehow nobody ever thought Ben would be one of the soldiers affected, but after his convoy gets caught in an explosion, Ben is in a coma for two months. When he wakes up, he doesn't know where he is, and he doesn't remember anything about his old life. His family and friends mourn what they see as a loss, but Ben perseveres. Although he will never be the person he once was, this is the story of his struggle and transformation.
I'll be completely honest. I didn't love this book. I didn't hate it by any means either, but I had hoped for more. It's a super quick read (160 pages). I finished it in pretty much one setting. And for me that was part of the problem. I wanted to feel more connected to all of the main characters, and I didn't because there just wasn't time to create that connection for me. I didn't care about Ben or Ariel (his girlfriend) enough for it to have a huge impact on me. I guess I just wanted more.
What was good was that it gave me an understanding of a part of war I've hear a lot about on the news, but really didn't know much about - Traumatic Brain Injuries. I've heard over and over about these, but never really completely understood what they were. This book did do a great job in helping me understand what a TBI was and how it affects everyone from the actual soldier to his or her entire family. I definitely appreciate the book for giving me that. That alone made it worth my time to read.
The other aspect I really liked was the character of Chris - Ben's brother. Chris has autism, and he is one of the most realistic examples of autism I've seen. I also liked that it was played in a matter-of-fact kind of way. He had autism, and it was something they had to work with, but it wasn't made into a huge issue. It didn't take over the rest of the story, and I liked that.
All in all - I'd recommend this book to my students. They might not have the issues I had with it, and I think boys will like that it jumps into the action pretty quickly.
Final thought - I'm glad I read it because I did learn from it. I just wanted more.
This review also ran on my students' blog Hooked on Books