This Is What I Did, by Ann Dee Ellis

Two things make books particularly memorable to me.

1. A great story, and

2. A great way of telling it.

When a book contains both a fabulous story and breakout style, I can’t help but love it. Ann Dee Ellis’ THIS IS WHAT I DID contains these elements and more.

The book’s first scene made me cry. The authors book deals with a serious topic, and handles it perfectly, mixing humor with the perfect touch of tension. Even as readers cry over the main character, Logan, they can’t help sense he’ll be okay in the end.

And he is. But not without a lot of struggle, the kind readers love to experience with him.

Ann Dee Ellis adds a great touch with the lighthearted Laurel, a new friend who sends him palindrome notes. The palindromes are amazing, and I love how each note they write to each other becomes a page illustration.

The other extraordinary feature of this book is how Ann Dee Ellis handles page structure and dialogue. As an example, she uses no quotations when people speak. She manages to use this in a way that’s not only poignant and at times amusing. She also succeeds in making her writing exquisitely clear.

As an example, this is part of the scene where Logan talks about meeting Zyler, his best friend:

Mrs. Frasier assigned us together for the diorama…then Zyler came up to me and said: So what should we do it on?

Me:

Zyler:

Me:

Zyler:

Me:

Zyler:

Me: I don’t know.

Zyler: What about on the Japanese Samurai?

We’ve been best friends ever since.

THIS IS WHAT I DID, p. 39, by Ann Dee Ellis, Little Brown and Company.

Ann Dee also uses this device to demonstrate Logan’s long silences since the Thing that Happened (read the book to find out what ocurred.) His response to a question frequently looks something like this:

Me:

This effect is powerful, as is the entire book. I loved reading it.

I get to be in Ann Dee Ellis’  Boot Camp workshop at WIFYR this year, and I’m so excited! I know I will learn so much from her. I’m hoping Ann Dee’s concise, on-the-mark style will help me overcome my extreme wordiness. [If that’s a word.]

 

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Melanie Skelton

    Ann Dee is amazing. I was in her group two years ago and it was an intense, growing experience. She’ll do a great job with the boot camp. Just make sure you sleep the week before. 😉

  2. beccabirkin

    Wow! She’s given instructions to send out to her class (I need to do that soon) and it sounds terrific!

  3. Amy Hackworth

    I’ve heard Ann Dee speak at the conference before in break out sessions, and I think she has such an ability to share what she knows. I’m so impressed with her, and her work.

    I love the silences she shows with that space after the colon. That’s brilliant.

  4. Courtney Lowe

    “Wordiness” is a word. . . isn’t it?

    Ann Dee’s work is unflinching (like Carol’s!)–perhaps that’s why they’re such good friends. It takes a lot of courage to deal with difficult topics on the page, so BRAVO, Ann Dee!

  5. Kevin Smith

    Now I’m going to have to read her books. Which is good, because I’m always on the look out for good reads! Thanks for posting the review!

  6. Alison

    I was amazed by this book when I read it. Such a unique style and the voice . . . I don’t know anyone who’s captured the essence of teenage boy as well as Ann Dee.

  7. Debbie Nance

    I just read Ann Dee’s EVERYTHING IS FINE last night. It also is an excellent book. Now I need to get THIS IS WHAT I DID.

    We are very lucky to have Ann Dee on the faculty of WIFYR. This is going to be an amazing conference!!

  8. Kristyn Crow

    I read this book a few years ago, right at the beginning of summer. I hadn’t read a novel before that in quite some time…I’d had a dry spell of sorts. Well, after reading THIS IS WHAT I DID: the floodgates opened. It became the summer of “love-of-books.” It was so refreshing to get totally absorbed in a story and not be able to put the book down. I had forgotten what that felt like. I actually had the opportunity to thank Ann Dee for writing the book since it woke up the reader in me. She was very gracious and humble. One of the things Ann Dee taught me with this book is that in order to hook your reader you’ve got to create an intriguing question in his or her mind right from the start. It was my desire to know the answer to the question…what happened to Logan? It must have been something awful…what was it? For me, the book is genius on so many levels.

  9. Acacia Woodbury

    I also read EVERYTHING IS FINE by Ann Dee. Her books are so real and so sympathetic of reality. Thanks for the review!

  10. Bruce Luck

    Ann Dee is amazing. I was in her WYFER workshop a few years ago. She really turned my writing around.

  11. Elizabeth Dimit

    I love her books! I’m so excited to be in her boot camp this year. It’s going to be awesome!!!

    1. beccabirkin

      Oh good! I’m in it too. One of her workshop students from a past WIFYR told me Ann Dee’s class changed her [writing] life. I’m excited too! See you there.

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