My Name is Mina by David Almond
Rating: G, 5 stars
Summary: Mina doesn't have any friends. For most children, this would be a terrible loss. But Mina has an incredible imagination, and she uses this to fill the pages of her journal, giving the reader a glimpse into the world as only a child can see it. Mina's journal recounts her journey to find a good education, after leaving the public school, her trip into an old mine shaft, and so much more. All of these are told deftly in Mina's unique voice.
Opinions: I didn't know this books was a prequel to Skellig until after I had finished it. And I'm ok with that. This book is lyrical, so transformative, that I didn't feel I was missing a single thing while reading it, except for maybe 100 additional pages of Almond's poetic prose. Seriously, I need to read Skellig now to figure out whether or not all of his books are this poetic.
I picked up this book because I was fascinated with the cover. I couldn't tell if the title was simply My Name is Mina, or if it was My Name is Mina and I love the Night, or what. That alone intrigued me. And then I opened the book. The opening passage was beautiful. I started this book half an hour before I had class, and I regretted it. If I'd had the time, I would have read all of it in one sitting. As it was, this was a book that snuck out during dinner, at breaks in class, right before bed, etc.
What makes this book succeed so much is the voice. The actual plot and the character would be good, but nothing spectacular, without Mina's voice. The way she sees the world is imperative to how well the book reads. My Name is Mina is filled with unique formatting and different font sizes that truly communicate Mina's voice. Almond created a narrator who simultaneously thinks like a child and speaks with a profoundness that many adults lack. The stereotype that “children's” is synonymous with simple is absolutely shattered in this book, and shattered only in the best way possible.
Basically, I loved this book. There were times that the sheer beauty of the prose nearly had me in tears. I think this is the type of book that anyone can and will enjoy. I think children will be drawn in by the surface simplicity, while adults will fall in love with prose and the beautiful undercurrents. This is a book that everyone should read.