November 30, 2006

Friendship & Development at Ashbury High

This book is a 2006 Cybil Award Nominee for YA Fiction.

Ashbury High is where some of the most interesting things happen in Jaclyn Moriarty's novels, and The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie is no exception. If you've read Moriarity's other work, the feeling in this novel is the same -- Bindy - whose real name is Belinda - isn't like the other girls at Ashbury. In fact, she's rather better than all the other girls, if she does say so herself. See, she's the fastest typist, has the best grades and takes myriad classes and electives at which she shines, including debate team, yet she STILL has time to be available to her less brilliant classmates and come up with self-improvement lectures for them. She's only trying to help. Really. But then Ashbury comes up with a class called Friendship and Development (FAD) -- something at which Bindy should shine. Only, she's not shining at it. She's sucking at it. Everybody -- everybody but their sort of sweet and weird teacher, Try, hates Bindy.

The problem is, Bindy kind of also hates herself. She's miserable living with her Uncle and Aunt, with her Mum so far away, and her Dad ... well, being her Dad. He's demanding and a perfectionist, and thinks a lot of his Bindy-girl and her business plans, which is what he requires of her to get him to part with any pocket money -- but he also expects a lot out of her. Maybe too much. Bindy loves her brother, Andrew, who won't play Dad's games, and she's keeping a big secret for him, a secret that is nibbling at her. She turns to her mother, who is unavailable, involved as she in in her own business -- which makes her popular with the kids who hate her own daughter. Bindy's family is fractured and out of sync, and it's just another weight on Bindy's back.

Bindy, like many other of Moriarty's characters, journals, she writes lists to herself, and what she is writing shows the reader that she is slowly coming unhinged. She hates, hates, HATES the other kids in her FAD group. See, they're just not her type of people. She's been miserable in this FAD group, and her hate feeds on itself until she finds it's causing her to say things. She just... blurts things out, things that are hurtful or untrue. She draws ugly pictures of her classmates and posts them on the walls. Sometimes she can't understand what's coming over her. She's been talked to by the principal, by the debate team coach, and by her FAD leader. Even her best bud, Ernst thinks she's gone to far. What's worse, Bindy is always tired, lately, or dizzy, or feeling slightly ill. Her absent mother emails her that she must go to the doctor -- but to seek a doctor's help is to admit that something is going wrong. Bindy's truly not used to herself this way, and it scares her. She's just tried to help people, but some people are so WEIRD! Once, she even saw a teacher who slapped another teacher, and offered to be a witness for the incident, but the teacher called her a filthy name. Why? Why would anybody be so crass? And why do all the kids HATE her? How can they be so mean?

But people outside of Bindy's world are watching her. She's not herself, and though she doesn't think so, people notice. Even the quiet, enigmatic Finnegan Blonde (what a name!) notices. And, people -- even Finnegan, it turns out -- care. With a bit of luck and some quick thinking, it seems that the FAD class Bindy so loathes just might save her life.


a. fortis said...

I cannot WAIT to read this one. I love Moriarty's other books. Very intriguing review!

tanita s. davis said...

This one is REALLY different, and I SO don't want to give anything away, but I was surprised -- nay, SHOCKED by the end. I was like, "WHAT!?"

Can't wait to hear YOUR reaction!

Josette said...

I enjoyed reading this book too. Yeah, sometimes I felt sorry for Bindy too as she couldn't get along with her FAD buddies.

Great review! You can read mine if you want to. :)