My Name Is Mina - David Almond

Title: My Name Is Mina

Author: David Almond

Publisher: Hodder Children's Books

Release Date: 2010

Category: Young Adult

Source: From the publisher

Hardback: 300

Summary from Amazon:
There’s an empty notebook lying on the table in the moonlight. It’s been there for an age. I keep on saying that I’ll write a journal. So I’ll start right here, right now. I open the book and write the very first words: My name is Mina and I love the night. Then what shall I write? I can’t just write that this happened then this happened then this happened to boring infinitum. I’ll let my journal grow just like the mind does, just like a tree or a beast does, just like life does. Why should a book tell a tale in a dull straight line? And so Mina writes and writes in her notebook, and through her stories, thoughts, lessons and dreams, Mina's journal and mind grow into something extraordinary.
In this stunning book, David Almond revisits Mina before she has met Michael, before she has met Skellig, in what is a thought-provoking and extraordinary prequel to his best-selling debut novel, Skellig - winner of the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Children's Book Award. David Almond is also winner of the 2010 Hans Christian Andersen award.


You know, there was a time where I lived between France and Italy and where I was majorly clueless about YA. I read it and loved it, but "Young Adult" had never entered my vocabulary.
Anyways, one day, I googled YA fantasy books to read more of what I liked and found a "List of Best YA Fantasy books (so far)". Of course, Skellig was part of this list and I absolutely loved its simplicity and its powerful story. One of the reasons I loved Skellig was because of Mina. She is such an original and fantastic character that I literally *squeeeee* when I heard that David Almond had written a prequel with Mina as a main character. But then I had some doubts... What if I don't like the prequel? What if it ruins my love for Skellig? What if *gasp* I don't like Mina in this?

(Yes, I uselessly worry too much that way)

To be honest, I am curious as to what people who haven't read Skellig might make of this book. It is written as a diary by Mina and all the pages have different lay outs and stories to tell. I had many doubts reading it but I ultimately fell for the story. It can be read as a stand-alone, and it is different to Skellig but it is such a beautiful story to tell! I love Mina even more and the book is brilliantly written! She definitely is one of my favourite YA characters.
The book talks about Mina, and how much she misses her deceased father, and how hard it is to fit in when no one likes to see someone different. She is free-spirited and original, she dreams about being a bird and knows many random facts and she is extremely cute. Mina writes a lot in this diary, but we learn so much more about her reading through the lines. 

I found that the main theme of the book is about being normal versus being considered as not normal. But what is "normality" I may ask? Mina is different from other children, she has a very personal vision of education and culture and she is eager to learn. But she is seen by her teacher and school as a disturbance. Instead of encouraging her to learn her own way, she is sometimes even bullied by her teacher (or at least that is the way she feels when she is called on by the teacher). 
Mina is also bullied by other children, obviously. Other pupils make fun of her and she has no friends except another girl, who has a problem to one leg and limps. The young girl says that when she will have the operation to her leg, everything will be fine and she will have friends. She then asks Mina if she will have an operation for being strange, so she can have friends as well. I found this moment particularly sweet and revealing. Someone would need to be fixed to be like others and more importantly to be accepted and respected by them. My poor Mina! She is such an amazing character that you wonder why anyone would ever want to change her. It becomes so bad for Mina that she prefers being home schooled rather than spend her days with people who don't understand her and don't want to make any effort to. I am sure that an adult Mina will be highly praised by her peers for her intelligence, spirit and originality. It's a shame that she can't be herself from the beginning.

Grief and death are also a very important part of the book. Mina misses her father and there are several moments in the book where she does things in order to be closer to him which are all heart-breaking. Death also because her next door neighbour passed away and she often wonders about his house and maybe his ghost. She watches his house constantly trying to know who will move there - someone interesting hopefully. A family with a boy Mina's age and a little baby, perhaps.

My Name Is Mina is a sweet, fun and serious story at the same time. I am yet again impressed by David Almond's talent to get into a child or a teenager's head and create such original stories. The book reminded me a little bit of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer where a quirky young child has lost in father in 09/11 and has adventures in New York to try to find him (it is an adult novel even though the narrator is a child). I really think we should blur the adult fiction and YA/children fiction a bit more since books like My Name Is Mina would be amazing for children to read as well as for adults. 

Thank you so much to Hodder and Mary for this book!

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