Simon Says Review

Simon Says
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Even in kindergarten, Charles knew that he didn't want to play Simon Says. He didn't want to do what somebody named Simon said. He wanted to be himself. If it was a choice of playing Simon Says or standing in the corner, he stood in the corner. Charles is a sophomore in high school now, and he is still determined that he will not play Simon Says.
But people have always been dissatisfied with who Charles is. His life is full of Simons telling him to be different. Don't use his left hand; don't paint pictures that make them feel uncomfortable; make them proud of him; study for the right kind of job. The more he uses his paintings to show people how he feels, the more they hate him. They make fun of him, tear up his class assignments, and call him names. Teachers harass him, and his parents are ashamed of him.
That's why Charles wants to meet Graeme. When Graeme was a freshman at Whitman High School for the Arts, he wrote a book, The Eye of the Storm, that was published and made people sit up and blink. Charles knew as soon as he read it that he had to go to Whitman, too, and meet Graeme. Here was somebody who knew all about the Simon Says games people play, and yet he obviously never played them himself. Charles knows that he can learn from Graeme how to be himself without playing the game, either.
But Graeme is not what Charles expected him to be. Graeme is a senior at Whitman now, and he hasn't written another book since his first one. Graeme himself doesn't know why. Nor does he know why he's a disappointment to Charles. What does Charles want from him? The relationship between the two boys becomes more and more complicated, until it erupts in a storm that will change them both forever.
The themes of this book are desperately thought-provoking --- Always be yourself, because the alternative can be deadly. But to be yourself, you have to know who you are. And what we are in any given moment is not the whole truth of us. It can be more terrible to live than to die, but death takes away everything. And Simon Says might be a game we all play, even when we don't want to.
--- Reviewed by Tamara Penny

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