Mitchell, Todd. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2013. 9780763662776
Quantitative Reading Level: I was able to get this on NetGalley but it won’t actually be released until October. The listing on Follet Titlewave says it will be YA. The listing on Candlewick’s website says grades 7 and up or ages 12 and up.
Qualitative Reading Analysis:
I would rate this as Middle High on the “Text Complexity: Qualitative Measures Rubric for Literary Text”. There is a lot going on with this book. First of all the whole book is told backwards. It begins with Dan’s suicide and then instead of moving forward a day, the narrator, a Rider, goes backwards a day. In addition, as the Rider goes backwards we get his point of view and also Dan’s point of view as they wrestle for control of Dan’s mind. These shifts would actually bump this into the High level of complexity but the language is fairly straightforward so it averages out. This is clearly a fantasy book but there is a lot going on with the characters so it is quite complex to look at their actions and motives and figure out what is going on.
The book starts with Dan’s suicide which is when the Rider is first aware of his existence. The narrator or Rider has no idea what is going on but is at once disgusted with Dan’s apparent wasted life and the effect his suicide has on his sister and mother. When the Rider next wakes up Dan is alive and the Rider soon discovers that he is experiencing Dan’s life backwards. As the Rider goes through Dan’s life he slowly discovers the events leading up to Dan’s suicide. Can he gain control of Dan’s mind and prevent the suicide and the events leading up to it? Can he change the past? Could he get enough control and live Dan’s life and get the girl, Cat? By going backwards the Rider and the reader try to piece together events and at times both get the wrong information. This was a powerful book.
Author’s Website: http://toddmitchellbooks.com/
Personal Thoughts: I read this a few days ago and I can’t get it out of my head. It is very powerful. I was a little creeped out when it started with Dan’s suicide but was intrigued with the narrator or Rider. Then as the Rider began living Dan’s life backwards I was sucked in. As more and more was revealed it became apparent what led to the suicide but so sad. The Rider tries to undo the mistakes that were made but because he doesn’t know all the details he can’t know if he is really making a difference. Things the Rider thinks he knows turn out to be false. I really enjoyed this and it has a very good message about cause and effect and consequences of our actions. I highly recommend it.
Content Area: Reading/ELA
Content area standard:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3 Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5 Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.
This would be a very interesting text to read to look at cause and effect. It would also be good to look at why the author chose to tell the story backwards and how things are revealed.
In addition, this would be a powerful book to read and discuss in a health class or to tie in with a discussion about suicide – cause and effect.
Subjects/Themes: Death, Self – inner and outer
High Interest Annotation: If you could experience life backwards, could you prevent a tragic event?