Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Me, Myself and Ike by K.L. Denman

I think what makes Me, Myself and Ike special is how, despite treating a very dark, even tragic subject, adolescent schizophrenia, seriously and well,  it manages to read so easily.  I read this book effortlessly in under three hours, but I thought about it for the rest of the day.  This book is very accessible to younger teens and tweens, but isn't at all dumbed down. I believed it utterly. 

Me, Myself and Ike follows the mental deterioration of a good kid.  Christopher, or Kit, our first person narrator, has had a happy life, with a warm family, a talent for basketball, a few good friends and a girlfriend he cares about.  But when we meet him, these good relationships are mostly memories.  The only friend in Kit's life now is Ike, a nasty person who pops around when no one else is there and whom Kit often seems afraid of.  When Kit sees a documentary on Otzi the prehistoric Iceman,  Ike somehow convinces him that the only way he can make his life worthwhile is to become a modern day iceman, allowing himself to freeze in the mountains for the benefit of future generations of scientists.  Kit quickly becomes increasingly paranoid and delusional as he prepares himself for his death. We soon realize that Ike is a product of Kit's mental illness, and fortunately Kit's plan to become the Iceman of the Future is thwarted by his brother, who manages to find and save him at the last minute.  Kit ends up hospitalized and talking to a psychiatrist.  We don't know for sure that Kit's mind can become healthy again, but we are left hoping for the best.

Denman approaches the character of Kit with immense empathy and respect.  Kit isn't at all alien or scary, although there are times when we are afraid for him.  I love how Denman has humanized the face of such an isolating disease, and made us relate to Kit so fully even as we see that he is not well.  For many of us, schizophrenics are those dirty people on the street, asking for change, muttering to themselves and occasionally striking out violently.  Denham shows us a person who has schizophrenia, rather than a schizophrenic who used to be a person.  Me, Myself and Ike is a great read for thoughtful people, tweens on up.

No comments: