Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Publisher: Scholastic Inc./Arthur A. Levine Books
Release Date: October 1st, 2006
Pages: 488 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Checked it out from my school library (which took me two and a half years to discover!)

Bindy Mackenzie is the most perfect girl at Ashbury High. She scores in the 99.9th percentile in all her classes. She holds lunchtime advisory sessions for her fellow students. She keeps careful transcripts of everything said around her. And she has been Kmart casual Employee of the Month for seventeen months straight.

No wonder somebody wants to kill her.

Bindy is horrified to learn she must take part in the Friendship and Development Project--a new class meant to provide a "life raft" through "the tricky seas of adolescence." Bindy can't see how airheaded Emily Thompson, absentminded Elizabeth Clarry, mouthy Toby Mazzerati, malicious Astrid Bexonville, silent Briony Atkins, narcissistic Sergio Saba, and handsome, enigmatic Finnegan Blonde could ever possibly help her.

(Well, maybe Finnegan could.)

But then Bindy's perfect life begins to fall apart. She develops an obsession with the word "Cincinnati." She can't stop feeling sleepy. She fails an exam for the first time ever. And--worst of all--she just doesn't care.

What could be the cause of all these strange events? Is it conspiracy? Is it madness? Is it... murder?

Lots of people hate Bindy Mackenzie--but who would actually kill her? The answer is in Bindy's transcripts. The detectives are the members of her FAD group. But Bindy has made every one of them into an enemy... and time is running out.


Number one in all her classes for years, Bindy Mackenzie believes herself to be above all the drama and silliness of teenage years, saying more than once that she is not a teenager and never has been. When thrown into the Friendship and Development class with seven other people she does not know or care for, Bindy is unsurprisingly unhappy. After a few months and occasions where she upset pretty much everyone, strange things start to happen to Bindy. She feels unwell and her grades are quickly diving. Could someone be trying to kill Bindy? The evidence doesn't look good.

There is rarely anything more uncomfortable for me than reading a character that is almost exactly like me. Because I am... unique, as many people have called me in both the good and bad ways, this almost never happens, but Bindy reminds me so much of me that I wanted to throw the book and scream at it. (I didn't, if you're curious; I don't do that to books I get on loan.) Bindy did many things I know I do, like scoff at teens and think of how I'm above all that stuff, and I hated it. The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie showed me through its main character all the things I hate about myself and the way I behave. Her inability to connect to others mirrored my own, but I'm not sure I'll ever be able to learn how the way she did in the course of this novel.

Sorry about that little tangent. Back to the book. Bindy is a layered character that despite her unlikability, is easily sympathetic, especially when her dad enters the picture. Treating your daughter more than a little bit like an employee? Not cool. It's kind of strange and more than a little sad to be in this girl's head because even though it's so obvious that she's really judgmental and disconnected from others, she honestly believes she's helping other students and being nice to them. Supporting characters like bubbly Emily (who is apparently a main character in another novel, as is Elizabeth) won me over too.

Epistolary novels don't come my way often and it leaves me wondering why the heck not. The mixture of memos, letters, emails, transcripts, and reports, all written by Bindy (except for some bits near the end, but forget about those) come together to form a more entertaining story than I thought there would be. Bindy's unorthodox (for a teenager) narration style made me smile at more than a few points. In my head, I could hear Bindy's dramatic shouts of formal language. Other, more urgent books were laying around, but Bindy and her story wouldn't let me go.

And then out of almost nowhere in the end comes a big mystery! I saw one review call it preposterous, but I thought that it worked quite well. When going back and looking through everything related to the mystery, it all ties together and makes a surprising amount of sense. This does provide a nice case of reader whiplash, though--it's a sometimes-funny, sometimes-painful story of a brainiac realizing her flaws one minutes and a tense mystery the next where everyone's scrambling to find out what's wrong with Bindy and whose fault it is.

It's a good thing my library has Moriarty's other books too! Despite being the third book in a series that (thank goodness, or else I would have messed up) doesn't need to be read in order, The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie was good enough to make me want to read the other three books in the series. But which book of the series to read next? Decisions, decisions... Even without reading the other books, I can happily recommend this series and especially The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie. It's definitely more than the average teen-problems novel.

5 stars!

What am I reading next?: A Touch Mortal by Leah Clifford