Life Murder Of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty. Personal copy.
Bindy Mackenzie is the most successful girl in Grade 11. She works hard, and she has the grades and the class standing to prove it. It's not just in school that she excels; she also works three jobs. And she cares about her fellow students—why, last year Bindy held lunchtime advisory sessions!
So what if her parents have moved to the city, leaving her to live with an aunt and uncle? So what if her mother never responds to her emails? So what if her father requires a "business proposal" before "investing" in whatever Bindy wants to spend money on? As her father OKs proposals such as buying cheap things to resell at higher prices to classmates, he tells her again and again that she is smarter, and better, than everyone else. And Bindy believes him: Isn't the proof in her grades and accomplishments?
So what if she's quirky. Bindy does some of it deliberately, to show that she is well-rounded, such as her multicolored nail polish. Other stuff she does for fun, such as transcribing all the conversations around her onto her laptop. And then there's her little habit of comparing people to animals.
But still, Bindy doesn't need anyone. She does quite well by herself. So when she is forced, FORCED, into the new "Friendship and Development Project" (she notes the acronym FAD), with a group of people she has nothing in common with (they are coarse of language and not the brightest), she is upset. It is a waste of time, time spent better studying.
It gets worse after the first group project: anonymously comment on the other people in your group. The nicest thing said about Bindy is "fastest typist." She's also called "too smart" (how can one be too smart, she wonders) and "talks like a horse." Bindy gets angry and resolves to get even. And just as she takes her schoolwork seriously, she takes revenge seriously.
Except...revenge isn't as sweet as she thought it would be. And when things start going wrong in her life—not only does she stop handing in papers, she stops caring about doing well, and, oh yeah, there's the fact that someone may be out to kill her—Bindy discovers that she may need friends after all.
Bindy is a makeover book, with its protagonist evolving from an isolated, arrogant, lonely teen to someone with friends and who knows how to be a friend. Along the way, a mystery or two is solved. Makeovers are tricky—we don't really want everyone to be alike, and we don't want to say that there's only one right way to do things. Bindy is cautioned by her brother Anthony to not lose herself or disappear. What works is that Bindy doesn't; Bindy is actually a pretty cool teen. What's not cool, though, is her ingrained habit of judging everyone, and finding them wanting. And letting them know that. Why Moriarty is a genius is she takes this unlikable character and makes her lovable. You root for her, you cringe as she makes some serious missteps, you cheer her accomplishments.
This is a companion book to Moriarty's other books, The Year of Secret Assignments and Feeling Sorry For Celia. All take part at the same school, and there are overlapping characters. Chronologically, Feeling Sorry For Celia takes place first and Bindy last. This is one of those sets that doesn't have to be read in order, but, because Moriarty is a wonderful author, you'll be happy that you've read all three.
This review originally appeared in The Edge of the Forest, Issue 10, December 2006.
This was one of my my Favorite Books of 2006 (see sidebar)
I Have A Bed of Buttermilk Pancakes (Jaclyn Moriarty's blog) (oooh, there will be another book in this sequence!!!)
So many books, so little time review.
Confessions of a Bibliovore review.
Bookshelves of Doom mini review.
Page Numbered review.
Moriarty Madness for Aussie Day (highlighting all titles by the author) at Finding Wonderland.