by Elizabeth Laban
It's the start of a new year at the exclusive Irving School, a boarding school steeped in tradition. Duncan's senior year is beginning, and as he moves into his dorm he begins hunting for his “treasure” - a gift left for him by the previous occupant of his room. It turns out to be quite personal; Tim Macbeth, an albino boy who graduated the previous year, left Duncan a series of CDs on which he has recorded the story of his senior year. If Duncan listens to the end, Tim promises, he will have all the elements and material that he needs to write his Tragedy Paper, the senior project that every student must complete. If Tim is correct, than the gift he has given Duncan is truly a great one. Duncan becomes obsessed with the recordings, but not solely because of the promise of an easier homework assignment. Rather, he is driven by his own dark memories of the tragic events of the previous school year...
It was a real struggle for me to get through this book. Something about the sentence structure just seemed off. The dialogue was stiff, and the internal thoughts of the narrating characters tended to drag things out by making them seem dumber than they are. For example, in one scene Daisy reminds Duncan that they haven't seen each other since the beginning of summer, and if they maintain that pattern she won't see him again 'til December, Duncan is shocked - shocked that she was able to calculate the months out. Really, dude? That isn't exactly calculus. I almost walked away from this book a half dozen times, but I didn't have another title readily available so I forced myself to keep going.
The characters constantly refer to the Great Tragedy that struck Tim the previous year, and it's strongly implied that Duncan was somehow involved. The names of the boys – Tim Macbeth and Duncan - practically promise a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. But what we get is quite a bit weaker. Heck, Duncan's barely involved in the whole thing! I just felt so let down by the ending. The narrators had simply made too much of the events for the actual tragedy to be as mild as it was.
2.5 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: Fashionista Piranha is on a break until August 14th...
2011: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin
2010: Jeane Westin, author of His Last Letter
2009: Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel
2008: Contest: Neil Gaiman Extravaganza!