M in the Abstract
Red Deer Press (2013)
Reviewed by Elizabeth Malik (age 14) for Reader Views (04/14)
“M in the Abstract” by Douglas Davey is a teen fiction book about a shy, isolated girl named Mary. Mary is afraid to make any connections with other people due to the shadows that hide within her, emerging when she feels any emotion. She struggles between wanting to reach out to others and have a normal life and fearing what will happen if anyone ever sees her shadows.
When I first began this book, I had high hopes for what looked like a very interesting plot. The conflict of a girl struggling to connect with others because of her inner shadows (that take on actual physical forms) seemed like it would be just the kind of story I would like to read. Within the first few chapters, however, I was disappointed. Explicit swearing and use of derogatory terms began to become a large part of the dialogue of most of the characters. Due to the language, and also the inclusion of many sexual inferences, I enjoyed the book less than I had hoped. While understanding that this may be a technique by the author to quickly show the characters’ personalities, it created more of an unnecessary distraction for me. A deeper development of the characters was something I found lacking. There is a pivotal point in the story where a new character is brought in, has an intimate interaction with Mary and then simply disappears with no further development. This left me with more questions than answers and reinforced two conflicting structures in the story: concepts that were either too obvious or too subtle.
On the other hand, while I could not ignore the “iffy” language choice during the dialogue that was present in most of the book, I was able to appreciate other aspects. I enjoyed the way the author was able to convey both sides of Mary’s personality through her thoughts. In the book, Mary has what I call an “encouraging side”, and a “discouraging side”. When she is faced with a decision, she almost has a whole little conversation inside her head between these two sides. I think many teens can relate to the struggle going on inside Mary as she tries to make her way in the world.
The whole concept of these inner shadows taking physical form intrigued me. Are they just the inner workings of a teen-age girl’s mind, the hint of some mental illness, or does she have paranormal powers? If you like books that tie everything up nicely at the end leaving nothing unanswered, this may not be the book for you. However, if you enjoy mystery, intrigue and grey areas, “M in the Abstract” by Douglas Davey would be a good choice.