When the rest of the world has gone to sleep

Yes, I should have been sleeping - instead I stayed up half the night reading David Almond´s "My name is Mina", cover-to-cover. Remember I read a book called "Skellig" not long ago? This is the prequel, the fictional diary of Michael´s new friend Mina, who lives on his street.

Mina is a really interesting girl. She makes up new words, she visits the Underworld in an attempt to bring her dad back from the dead (this does seem to be a theme this week), and she obsesses over birds. She is a poet, and an explorer. It´s in her blood: her mum´s a writer (she writes articles for magazines) and her grandfather was a sailor who sailed around the world many times.

Mina cannot follow rules that she thinks makes no sense, and her schoolmates think she is strange. She does not fit in regular school, she does not fit in a school for special children, she want´s to be home-schooled. And her mum is happy to do it. She says Mina needs to be on her own right now, but eventually will have to go back out into the world and make friends. Actually, Mina´s mother is not like many other mums I know. I suspect she is rather like Mina herself. A bit too clever, a bit introverted.

At times I think the tone in this book is not quite right. Mina´s voice is just too grown up, too wise and clever. On the other hand, does a character always have to be realistic? I think not. And I remind myself that it´s written for kids, for 12-year-olds, perhaps. Not 44-year-old ladies. That said, when I closed the book I had a piece of paper full of notes, ideas of things I wanted to do with my writing. Good work, David Almond, inspiring me like that.

The story ends exactly where Mina enters "Skellig", when she comes up to Michael and says "Are you the new boy here? My name is Mina!". Almond takes 300 pages to tell Mina´s story, and only 170 to tell the story of Skellig. And I think he is more ambitious, he wants to say more with "My name is Mina". Like what it feels like to be an artist and an outsider. And something about the creative process. And in a way that´s where he looses the authenticity of the 12-year-old. It´s all that wisdom. On the other hand, if I had read this book as a 12-year-old, perhaps it would have been exactly right.

All in all: a good read. And the book also has a beautiful cover. And the librarians bought it just for me (no, not exactly, but on my suggestion). Splendid.

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