Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am

When high-school senior Ben Bright expresses his patriotic duty by secretly enlisting in the Army, his family, friends, and fiancée don’t approve — but when he’s flown home from Iraq after being injured by a roadside bomb, they’re grateful he’s alive. What they soon find out is that he remembers absolutely nothing. Not even his name. And none of their lives will ever be the same. 

Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am, which I cowrote with the great Harry Mazer, won the American Library Association’s 1000640 Schneider Family Book Award for teens, “for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.” It also was named to the 2013 Young Adult Library Services Association’s 1000640 Fiction for Young Adults list and was 1000640 featured title by the literary organization PEN America for their World Voices Festival.  Some reviews:

1000640 (starred review): “As illuminating as a hand grenade, and just as powerful.” (Full text at bottom of page)*

1000640  “Heart-wrenching and emotionally-charged … a moving portrait of a young soldier’s sacrifice and struggle … with realistic dialogue, relatable characters, and subject matter relevant to teens … ” 

1000640/files/Horn_Book_Somebody_Review.pdfHorn Book: “Has the power of prose distilled into its purest essence. An easy-to-read war novel that respects its readers and challenges them to understand the true consequences of war.”

1000640 Weekly: “Mazer and Lerangis use strong characters and storytelling to explore the slow and painful recovery of an injured teenage soldier…. The journey is powerful and worthwhile.”

1000640;s%2BCorner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=CC%3A%2B12%2F02%2F22BookPage: “Tells a bold war story without being overtly political or taking sides; as such it’s a great choice for discussion groups. It’s also an exciting, intelligent, fast-paced read that should appeal to both avid and reluctant readers, providing gripping action and food for thought.”

1000640/files/Library_Media_Connection_Somebody_Review.pdfLibrary Media Connection: “This is one of the best books I have read recently … the story of struggle, recovery, and relationships; of love, perseverance, and overcoming astronomical odds. All upper middle school and high school libraries should add this to their collection. Highly Recommended.”

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books: “The book is compact and sharply focused.… Its accessibility and directness may help readers understand how many things aren’t over just because a war ends.”

1000640 Reviews: “Gripping … sensational writing ability exhibited in each page.… Every major character, from Ben to Chris feels real and tangible, as if the very next moment one of these characters is going to walk in your front door and say hello.…  a fantastic book!”

*Full text of Kirkus review:

“Ben Bright’s senior year seems a prelude to a gloriously successful life, with college, loving girlfriend and an acting career spread out in front of him. Except for his plan to join the army first. Stubbornly committed to being the patriot he thinks ethics demand, Ben can’t explain it to anyone—especially not Ariela, the girl he plans to marry when he returns. As Ben departs for basic training and then serves in Iraq, Ariela heads to college, and best friend Niko, along with Mr. and Mrs. Bright and autistic younger brother Chris hold to normality. When the inevitable call comes, informing them that Ben is injured, no one knows exactly what to do or how to help. With the effective use of italics to indicate Ben’s thoughts, the contrast between what the outer world sees and how he processes it is clear. Progress happens, but it’s slow, and the toll on all is plain. Chris’ reactions are particularly unblunted. In a spare 148 pages, the complexity of the aftereffects of modern war is laid bare. The tight focus on one soldier does not oversimplify but rather captures the human drama in the personal: The Brights’ marriage is more than challenged, Ariela is pulled away by her college friends and Chris’ restricted, defined universe has to expand to encompass Ben’s new condition. The book’s power is in the honesty and hope conveyed. As illuminating as a hand grenade, and just as powerful.”