Review Blog

Jul 19 2010

Inside my head by Jim Carrington

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Bloomsbury, 2010. ISBN: 978140880277.
(Suggested reading age 14-17 years) Recommended. Jim Carrington writes about adolescent bullying, set in modern rural England using four main characters. Zoe has recently moved reluctantly from London with her family and must face the trepidation of starting at a new school. Knaggs is a nasty, manipulating bully who victimizes Gary over his appearance, social position, accent and any minute detail which gives him an opportunity to torment. David is Knaggs' friend who initially tolerates the mindless taunting but gradually appreciates that his lack of courage in objecting to the bullying is tantamount to endorsing it .
The narrative flows through the thoughts and experiences of Zoe, David and Gary, presented in character chapters which provide alternate insights. Assigning importance to the character David was a clever strategy. A clear attempt is made to enlighten readers who might not identify themselves as bullies but who must appreciate the serious consequences which arise from tacit approval of a bully's actions and failure to censure victimization. Young people readily understand bullying behaviour and few approve, yet the majority witness bullying of some sort and whether they support the bully without meaning or wanting to is the lesson within this novel. This is a touching, sad story and because it is realistic, the reader readily appreciates that relentless, damaging taunts and practical jokes cause the lonely suffering presented in the narrative.
Carrington deals with issues such as self-harm, psychiatric illness and suicide in an interesting manner. Whilst the tortured Gary stoically endures daily misery and inevitably wrestles with such notions, minor characters experience the worst of these outcomes in their lives which interplay through the main story. Accordingly Carrington acknowledges the brutal realities but enables his central characters to strive for more positive outcomes, rather than consigning them to a hopeless end which young people don't need to read. The conversational language is authentic and accordingly strong swearing is present but not excessively recurrent or foul. The Norfolk location, the characters, their families, teachers and school are readily transferable to any setting. Teachers, parents and students can learn from this tale which concludes less convincingly than it begins.
Rob Welsh

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