I hope you are having a great day. I know I am. Here is your last review of the day!
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
Inventing Elliot by Grahm Gardner
Synopsis From The Book
When fourteen-year-old Elliot Sutton arrives at HolminsterHigh, he’s determined not to stand out. He simply can’t let himself become a target again—not like he was at his last school. This time, he’s a new Elliot. Tough. Impenetrable. But then he meets the Guardians, a group of upperclassmen that secretly rule Holminster with a quiet and anonymous terror. Obsessed with George Orwell’s book 1984, they desire power for the sake of power—and they always get what they want. Now, they want Elliot. Not to terrorize . . . but to join them. Can Elliot face his new future, or will he become his own worst nightmare?
Drama | MG – M |Physical Abuse, Mental Abuse, Bullying | Dealing with trauma, standing for ones self, bystanders, unplanned consequences, lies and masks
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
My aunt got this book for me at a library sell. I was interested in it based on the premise. Its a middle grade book, which will be a nice change of pace from the books I have been reading.
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
That was a lot more graphic that I imagined. A lot more many things than I imagined. It was graphic, real, and never was fully resolved. But I liked it otherwise. It was an interesting power dynamic throughout. After learning more about the book, the author cites The Chocolate War in inspiration. Its a book I’ve never read but need to now.
After years of bullying, Elliot is finally able to start new. His family has moved and he is determined to ensure he does not end up in that state again. So he creates a new Elliot. He buys a new uniform instead of getting one hand me down, with his own savings. He doesn’t talk about his family. (His mom works two jobs to keep them alive, since his father is unable to communicate or help them in any way. His father was beaten almost to the point of death, and never returned to how he once was.) Elliot decides not to stand out, and if he’s noticed it’s for the right reasons. He does well enough in classes but not too well. He joins the swim team. He blends in and when he has to, stands out.
Only the new school has the Guardians. A group of boys who decides who gets punished, how, and by whom. Its a way to keep the population of the school under control. They choose Elliot to be one of them. Elliot struggles with himself as they take him under their wing. He becomes friends with one of the abused boys, but can’t be friends with him outside of Saturdays at the boy’s house. He starts to like a girl, but after one of the Guardians leads him astray that falls apart too.
Throughout the book, Elliot struggles with himself and who he identifies as himself. He cowers in the face of what could be. When the girl he liked, told him about 1984 (the book the Guardian’s cite power from), he learns that he has the choice for freedom even if he doesn’t win. At first he rejects it and tries everything to avoid it. He avoids telling the truth to teachers, the principal and even his mom. But his mom tells him that she’d there for him, and Elliot knows he has to make a choice. But not between the bullied Elliot, or the Elliot before that. This is between the Guardian Elliot, and the boy that the bullied Elliot could become. He was couldn’t kill that part of himself, and when given the opportunity for freedom to tell the principal everything… he takes it.
What I Liked:
Elliot; This poor child was beaten, destroyed, and forced to fight for himself in a world that wanted to destroy his happiness. His father was almost killed and was never the same, making Elliot hate him. His mother overworked herself to keep them all alive. He is forced to grow up in on of the most dangerous and horrible of ways. He became almost a monster, giving into peer pressure. However, Elliot’s entire mindset and trauma was so real, vivid, and dangerous. In the end, he had to make a decision and he ultimately did. This book was so based on his perspective and thought process, that I felt my own stomach twisting with it.
Ben; This poor kid just loved to take photos. I’m happy that he and Elliot became friends, even if Elliot was afraid to be around him at every moment. I’m also happy that he will be able to get out of the school.
Louise; She was a wonderful character. I’m also happy that she stood up for herself when Elliot groped her (at another character’s suggestion.) This was well done. She’s a brilliant girl. I wish her the best.
The Guardians; The three boys who rule the school are dangerous and alluring. Elliot was so afraid of them, but they were also what he could become. I liked seeing the bullies pressuring their status quo upon the bystanders, and the way that they were able to see violence. It was so true and a great way to analyze the reason that people hurt others. They were evil, yes, but they were human.
Elliot vs Elliot; This was one of the major conflicts in the book. The bystander versus the victim versus the bully. The three were at conflict as Elliot struggled to survive in his new school, shaping himself. It was fascinating to watch how a person could become a bystander or a bully after being bullied themselves. Elliots constant struggle with who he had been, who he was pretending to be, and who he wanted to be, was a battle worth fighting and a battle that often ends differently for everyone. This was the best part of the book.
Use of 1984; I have often seen other books misquoted or misunderstood in other media, and in real life, which results in some very bad behavior. The use of the book in this novel, shows this possibility. The Guardians do not use the lessons in 1984 properly. They use it to justify their terror, which ultimately shows that any book can be used to justify terror, for it is really just terror that they want. I also liked how, in the end, the book reflected 1984, and the use of freedom and breaking free. The whole world emulated it (by design of the Guardians) and when Elliot makes his choice, it is a great representation of 1984 in that way.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
I always want to see how the story ends, what happens in the after. While I don’t think this book would have needed it, I would have liked to read it.
‘When he was engrossed in a book, he was somewhere else, inside the story; for a short while the world left him alone.’ – pg5
“You know you were talking about when you read? You said how books are like — how they’re not just words and paper, but that they’re worlds. How when your’e reading you’re not reading, you’re exploring; reaching out, knowing other people, sharing their lives, everything that happens to them. And you said how you forget everything else, forget even yourself; that nothing else matters, and then you close the book and you know something you didn’t know before but you can’s say what it is… I think… I think… that’s what I love.” – pg 121
“Those with the most effective masks can find it hard to take them off.” – pg 126
“What mattered was not the fact of being afraid, but what you did, the choices you made, when you were afraid. And maybe that was something to do with being alive — or staying dead.” – pg 181