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Simon Says    by Elaine Marie Alphin order for
Simon Says
by Elaine Marie Alphin
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt, 2005 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Lyn Seippel

Charles Weston wins a scholarship to Whitman High School for the Arts. Once there he can give all his attention to his paintings without reprisal from his parents who think he should put his youthful obsession away and concentrate on getting into college. Art is fine as a hobby, but he can't expect to make a living from it. Besides his paintings make people (including his parents) uncomfortable.

Charles has another reason he is anxious to go to Whitman. He wants to meet a young junior there whose first book, The Eye of the Storm, has already been published to critical acclaim. Charles is sure from having read the book that Graeme Brandt will be his friend. Graeme's book is about the game the rest of the world expects you to play to fit in. Simon Says do it their way if you want their approval.

After meeting him, Charles is disappointed that Graeme doesn't seem to disdain the game he wrote about. Even though Graeme clearly understands what is happening, his desire to fit in is so strong that he continues to play.

It is easy to relate to the loneliness and isolation Charles feels, and his desire to be accepted on his own terms. Curiously Charles doesn't recognize that he has met someone else who refuses to play the game. He is not alone in his desire to hold on to his individuality. Someone else is tired of pretending and understands that playing the game is giving in, being less than you can be.

The prologue depicts an unknown student at the grave of another student who didn't make it through those painful, yet hopeful, teenage years. Readers are left to wonder as they read the story, which of Alphin's characters will end up in that grave?

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