The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie

January 7, 2009
By Sara Johnson, Cincinnati, OH

Are you tiring of reading about the generic struggling teenager who has no easy road to improvement? Then meet Bindy Mackenzie, a girl who is too smart, too organized, and just too on top of everything in her life for her own good. From her weekly to-do lists to her hourly physiological musings about school, the meaning of life and everything in between, people of all ages can learn a thing or two about how to live a more productive life from Bindy. So when a girl who has won every spelling bee since preschool purposely skips a class and doesn't give it a second thought, you know something is afoot. Slowly, as Bindy, a girl who has previously spent every waking second to improve every aspect of her life, falls from the top of all her classes to the “students of concern” list, it makes you wonder… who is murdering Bindy Mackenzie?
OK, maybe the story isn't a murder mystery, but the book is written in a way that makes it just as suspenseful as a novel of that genre. The author, Jaclyn Moriarty, tells the story through the emails, letters, passed notes, homework assignments, diary entries and doodles that the characters create by putting their pencils to paper. This unique method of storytelling keeps the audience on their toes because the reader never knows which character will write the next entry or the amount of time and events that have occurred since the last writing. This technique also reveals each of the characters in a truer light since it is often easier to express their motives and feelings more truthfully in writing rather than face to face. As the story progresses, not only will the suspense build, but you will get to know the characters' distinctive writing styles like an old friend's.
Though the motley writing entries keep the reader alert, when the story hits the halfway point, the plot that was previously zooming down the road, seems to slow to a crawl. The author takes her time developing each character so a completely different personality change isn't sprung on you but, in doing so, sacrifices attention grabbing events. In making the alteration believable by evolving their personalities so slowly, she lost some of my interest by taking a little too long. But as the story nears the end, the reader will start to discover how big of an impact all the little details revealed in the middle of the story actually have on the outcome. Every little component weaved into the characters' lives is all twisted into a mind boggling conclusion that I was not expecting from this seemingly silly novel. When I finished the story, I realized reading the whole novel to absorb every detail was well worth the effort because the unexpected and intriguing connections that are made will give the reader delightful brain candy on which to chew.
Anyone, whether a middle school student or someone who will not readily admit how long it has been since they sat in a classroom, that wants to pick up a few study tips would definitely benefit from this fun read. One the helpful hints you might find useful is: “Bindy Mackenzie's Study Tip #2: Think of maths formulae as your friends. Talk to them. Laugh with them. Choose a favorite. Buy them small treats.” Though it is 500 pages, the reading flies by since the pages are often filled with spaces between each entry, but their curiosity will easily carry the reader through. Also written by Jaclyn Moriarty is The Year of Secret Assignments in which the author tells the tale through texts and pen pal letters in the same distinctive writing method. The author will grab your interest and pull you along as Bindy's seemingly perfect life slowly begins to decline… but is it for the better?

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