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Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 13 years, 3 months ago

14 March 2004 INVENTING ELLIOT by Graham Gardner, Dial Books, March 2004, ISBN 0-8037-2964-2


"And so I wrestle with the angel

To see who'll reap the seeds I sow

Am I the driver or the driven

Will I be damned to be forgiven

Is there anybody here but me who needs to know"

--Grateful Dead, "Victim or the Crime"


"Survival wasn't that difficult. It simply meant cutting off all the pieces of you that didn't fit. After a while, your new identity became second nature, as if you'd always been like you were now.

"The difficult part was managing and keeping apart all the different people you had to become."


INVENTING ELLIOT is a smart psychological YA thriller set in a private high school in which Elliot, a scarred victim of bullying at his previous schools, is given the chance to start over in a place where nobody knows him, and then finds that his careful efforts at creating himself a new image lead to his being adopted into the heart of the students' secret power structure where he is offered the opportunity to mete out the kind of arbitrary, sadistic punishment to vulnerable classmates that he himself had been subjected to in his previous life. Elliot's constant fear is that any reluctance to play the game will lead to his once again becoming a victim himself.


"I'm the king in fighting competition

and the other pieces

are there for my art and my tactics now.

All my games are won before they're played for

I have planned that no opposition can stage a fight

I'll play the game and never ever lose."

--Gentle Giant, "Playing the Game"


As most of us can imagine, being in his position means that Elliot will merely be trading one living hell for another. Elliot's deep fears, artfully hidden behind his newly minted veneer, are infectious. I was thoroughly on edge as I followed Elliot page by page.


"When I'm in the shower

I'm afraid to wash my hair

'Cause I might open my eyes

And find someone standing there"

--Rockwell, "Somebody's Watching Me"


Not having read 1984 since well back on the other side of that year, I was intrigued by the prominent role that Orwell's book plays in this story, with two schoolmates presenting their radically contrasting impressions of the book to Elliot. Through those contrasting visions put forth by his characters, the author provides additional fuel for Elliot's internal struggle, as well as tools for the reader to begin considering why the dynamics of bullying exist in schools and possibly why people in the larger society forever crap on each other as if it's an inherent part of being human.


INVENTING ELLIOT asks more questions than it answers. This exceptionally well-crafted tale will grab readers in its ever-tightening snare and leave them wrestling with their own beliefs about power and how it is used.


Richie Partington




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