Thursday, May 10, 2012

Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am by Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis.    Simon & Schuster, 2012.

Ben Bright is the All-American guy.  He is smart and funny; he has a wonderful family and an incredible girlfriend.  He is extremely talented, most recently playing the lead in the school musical, West Side Story.  He has a great best friend, and everyone likes him.  Why would he turn down a chance to go to college or to audition for a new television show? 
Patriotism and serving his country are more important to Ben, so he enlists in the United States army.  He survives boot camp and is shipped off to Afghanistan to serve his first tour of duty.  While there, his convoy is in a horrific explosion, which puts Ben in a coma that lasts for two months.  The doctors say he has TBI, traumatic brain injury, which results in memory loss, mood swings, headaches, and also affects the senses.  Upon awakening, Ben cannot remember his name or anything about his life and must go through extensive therapy to recover what he has lost.  His accident and subsequent recovery affects everyone around him—his girlfriend, Ariela, his best friend, Niko, and his family, especially his younger autistic brother, Chris.
Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am is one of the best books I have read recently.  Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis did a terrific job collaborating on this novel.  The street and battle scenes in Afghanistan make me feel like I am really there with the action.   Additionally, there is a scene in a grocery store where Ben has a flashback; it is extremely believable and realistic.
There is a lot of interesting information about autism worked into the story.  I loved the scene where Chris uses a spreadsheet to write a poem; it was pure genius.  There was such a change in the relationship between Chris and Ben from the beginning to the end of the story.  Ben began as Chris’s hero, but it is Chris who ends up being Ben’s hero by bringing him back with his poetry.   Also, it is Ben’s best friend, Niko, who becomes the rock for the Bright family, never giving up on Ben.  While Ariela, Ben’s girlfriend, has wavering doubts about her future with Ben, she still never loses hope or cheats on him.
The novel is the story of struggle, recovery, and relationships, but more, of love, perseverance, and overcoming astronomical odds.  I highly recommend it for upper middle school and high school libraries.
**Note:  The copy reviewed was an ARC received from Library Media Connection in exchange for an honest review.