Nominated for Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers
American Library Association – Best Books for Young Adults
Voice of Youth Advocates – 2007 Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers List
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
Part staccato prose, part transcript, this haunting first novel will grip readers right from the start. Fragmented scenes re-create, with grim authenticity, the almost claustrophobic perspective of the eighth-grade narrator, Logan, as he struggles to come to terms with his role in a despicable crime. “A year ago I was fine. That’s when there was nothing wrong,” Logan says early on. In relaying the action chiefly through Logan’s terse observations and through script-like reproductions of dialogue, Ellis never veers from Logan’s point of view. In this way, she infuses the narrative with his guilt over what happened, the details of which are revealed only in a climactic finale. At the same time, the narrator’s frustration does not become the audience’s, thanks to Ellis’s skill in dramatizing his vulnerability. Readers will recognize themselves in Logan’s difficulty overcoming his shame, even if the scale of his experiences is larger than their own, and sympathy as well as curiosity about his circumstances will drive them forward. Logan’s progress is slow-but realistically so-and brings with it an almost cathartic relief for the audience. Plaudits go to the art department, too: a particularly attractive book design incorporates small drawings between each segment of text. Ages 12-up. (July)
Voice of Youth Advocates (Starred Review)
What makes this psychological drama unique is the writing style of the author and format of the book. Silhouetted images are scattered throughout, palindromes are exchanged between Laurel and Logan with regularity, and the text is often written as if it were a screen play. Logan’s agony is the reader’s own as the layers of his story are revealed. What haunts him is every bit as terrible as suspected, but he has to tell as the reader is still guessing. Ellis’s outstanding novel marks her as an author to watch.
From Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (Starred Review)
“A year ago, in seventh grade, I was fine,” says Logan, recalling his closeness with his friend Zyler and their burgeoning friendship with Cami, a girl Logan really liked. Now he and his family have moved to a new house and town to escape the shadow of a traumatic event involving Zyler and Cami; as Logan struggles with bullying and his new classmates and tentatively makes a connection with Laurel, a girl with a taste for palendromes, he begins gradually to reveal and to deal with his history. This is an original story, and it’s told in an offbeat and original style, with
thirteen-year-old Logan’s narration appearing in brief, one-sentence thoughts structured in sections delineated by thematically relevant thumbnail artwork and punctuated by palindromic notes between Laurel and Logan. It’s actually a highly accessible format that also adds effectively to the tension, enhancing the tautness of Logan’s account and lending a certain verisimilitude in its unpolished and choppy relation. The bullying is depicted with more nuance and sophistication that usual, with the book tacitly noting the social physics of victimization as Logan moves from likely target (rumors have followed him to his new school) to an outcast whose tormenting is tacitly approved and sometimes abetted by adults. Logan’s reluctance to address his past is believable as well as suspenseful, and the event – Zyler shot his abusive father to stop his sexual assault of Cami, while a frightened Logan fled and refused to help his friend – is a dramatic and credible source of Logan’s guilt. Reluctant readers will particularly appreciate the blend of provocative story and approachable format, while readers in general will find much to discuss in this thoughtful story. DS
School Library Journal
Something terrible happened last year involving Logan, his friend Zyler, Zyler’s physically abusive father, and a girl named Cami. Logan’s parents moved the family to a new neighborhood to try and offer Logan a fresh start. But it is not working. The repercussions have followed the eighth grader. He tries to be invisible, but he is tormented by kids in his class, who know something happened, but not what; by his scout troop (including the adult leader); and by his jock younger brothers. Still, Logan does not completely withdraw from the world. He builds sets for the school play, lands a small role in it, and starts an odd, palindrome-filled friendship with a girl. Through his thoughts, memories, brief bits of dialogue, and visits with a psychiatrist, Logan’s past is slowly unveiled. This novel is reminiscent of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Doubleday, 2003) both in its layout and in the emotional flatness of the narrator. Readers are in the protagonist’s head, which, since he has been severely traumatized, is not always a pleasant place to be. But Logan is doing the best he can and is very likable. The odd layout – no chapters, only small sections that cover a thought or a moment in time – is a stylistic touch that could have come across as gimmicky, but instead tells the story in an inventive way. This is an intense, well-told story that will make readers think hard about how they would handle rough situations in their lives. Expect it to generate a lot of questions and discussion. – Geri Diorio,The RidgefieldLibrary, CT
This powerful novel about abuse and anger, guilt and betrayal, does not so much unfold as it does circle around the traumatic event at its center in an ever tightening spiral . . . This painful novel serves as a grim reminder of the unspoken burdens children may carry. It is only near the end when healing begins that we learn what actually happened. The book captures the harsh realities of schools as complex societies, where students must learn at least as much about social interaction as about academic subjects. Though written for a younger audience, it
bears comparison with such novels of betrayal as Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner.
Eighth-grader Logan is struggling to deal with a violent situation he witnessed a year ago between his best friend, Zyler, and Zyler’s abusive father but insists to everyone around him that he is fine. Just fine. Reluctant readers will be drawn into this story, which also includes bullying classmates and a dismal winter camping trip. Frequentline breaks, screenplay-style dialogue, and emails and notes illustrated with black icons break up the scenes. Logan gets to play one of the Lost Boys in the school play, and finds that the theater crowd offers a respite from bullies. A friendship with a girl named Laurel (a palindrom collector who is thinking of changing her name to Laral), and a relationship with a counselor help Logan to begin the healing process and convince him to reconnect with Zyler. This psychological drama effectively explores our failure to protect youth from abuse inflicted by peers or adults. Caution: there’s a slang term for scrotum on page 1. – Cindy Dobrez
The Northern Echo
This strange American novel is written in a vague, disjointed style as if directly from inside the head of its mixed up young hero. Logan suffers from bullying and he’s also at odds with his father and younger twin brothers as he doesn’t share their passion or talents for sport. As his narrative unfolds, we discover that something else – something unspeakably horrible in his past is troubling him; for his family has uprooted to a new area for his sake, and started him at a new school. Soon rumors are spreading amongst his classmates that he’s guilty of some horrific crime. A fascinating, compulsive and thought-provoking book; though some youngsters might find it rather disturbing. (Age 11+)
The Irish Times
This Is What I Did: sums itself up as “new home, new school, old secret”. Logan, 13, is bullied and sees himself as a reject and a loser. Every teenager will recognise the psychological and social unease of school and family interaction. When Logan discovers something terrible about his friend Zyler, he cannot tell, and the dark secret weighs him down. The ugliness and stupidity of the bullying, the parents’ helplessness, counselling sessions and a crazed assault are powerfully evoked. No gimmickry here, just fine, spare, page-turning writing with superb dialogue. Strongly recommended.
Timid Logan is relentlessly bullied by classmates and fellow Boy Scouts because of something they think he did last year, in 7th grade. Suspense builds as the reader tries to guess what happened. It turns out it’s what Logan didn’t do that haunts him . . . Told mainly in dialog, with handwritten notes (about palindromes) interspersed, this is a valuable if disturbing story of
a boy finally finding the courage to speak up and take action.
THIS IS WHAT I DID: has a lot of line breaks like a verse novel and a lot of dialogue, making it an extremely quick read. Even the more reluctant readers will be gulping down this compelling nightmare of a contemporary YA mystery tale, in one sitting.
From Amazon US
Imagine if you had witnessed something horrific. Imagine if it had happened to your friend. And imagine if you hadn’t done anything to help. That’s what it’s like to be Logan, an utterly frank, slightly awkward, and extremely loveable outcast enmeshed in a mysterious psychological drama. This story allows readers to piece together the sequence of events that has changed his life and changed his perspective on what it means to be a good friend and what it means to be a good person. This is What I Did: is a powerful read with clever touches, such as palindrome notes, strewn throughout the story and incorporated into the unique design of the book.
From Amazon UK
A boy is racked by guilt. His family have moved house and school to help him come to terms with a violent event at his best friend’s house, to no avail. Little do they realise just how much he knows about this unspoken tragedy – and how well-placed he was to prevent it. Keeping dark secrets buried deep down is always a mistake – and when it causes you to become vulnerable to all the petty thuggery of the playground, more tragedy seems inevitable. Told in the eleven-year-old boy’s own idiom, by carefully constructed flashback, this startlingly moving cliffhanger explores every range of bullying, and every response: the ambitious dad, the copy-cat son, the mob rule of the classroom, and the benign blindness of a hapless family. it all boils down to one question: just how guilty are you, when you knew but did not say?