Eleven by Patricia Reilly Giff, published by Wendy Lamb Books, Random House, 2008.
I had very mixed feelings about this book. I kept asking myself why it was that I didn’t become emotionally attached to Sam, the protagonist and his new friend Caroline. Sam was likable enough and even appears to have dyslexia, something that would normally garner a reader’s sympathy. Sam discovers a newspaper clipping that said he was a missing child. He spends the book trying to figure out who he is and where he belongs.
I was also disappointed by Giff’s handling of the dyslexia. Although she does a superb job of describing it, “the words a bunch of loops and whorls that seemed to jump as Sam looked at them,” Giff misses an opportunity to really explore this topic.
I was also a little put off by they way she concludes this arc of the story. Sam decides he has to learn to read. He goes to the reading teacher who has been helping him. They talk about how much time he had spent building a castle for another class and that sometimes reading is also that hard. She says, “We’ll keep at it, work on it; we’ll really try.” I realize that she is acknowledging that he is making a commitment now too, but somehow it seemed dismissive of his learning disability. An implication that by putting some effort into it would make it go away.
This book is also a finalist for the Edgar award from the Mystery Writers of America.