Book Review: Being

March 13, 2008

Cathy is an old friend of mine. She is our school librarian. While our cultural identities differ, our taste in reading is totally in tune. When she recommended this book, I started to read. What was supposedly teen fiction turned out to be more than that.

Being by Kevin Brooks reads like a thriller, science fiction novel and spiritual book simultaneously. The protagonist, Robert, goes to hospital for a stomach ache and the endoscope sees something else. Who or WHAT is Robert? Is he human or is IT machine? Or is he someone else/ something else?

Enter Eddie, a big time identity thief and forgeror who helps Robert in his quest for himself. We also encounter some mysterious guys with guns and cellphones who are intent on capturing our protagonist. Who they are is yet another question. Or are they figments of Robert's imagination?

The novel is in two layers. One is a sequential narrative of events that unfold. In another, the line between reality and mental wanderings are smudged. While I shall leave the readers to discover the answers along with the unfolding of events, I would like to share here, the confusion, the 16-year old Robert goes through when confronted with these facts. He is thrown into turmoil when he begins to wonder if he was an alien or a cleverly made super intelligent being. Yet, he feels so human.

Working with teens, I get glimpses of this issue facing them with regards to how to define themselves. Some of them seek it in relationships, some in drugs and alcohol, yet others in music, sports or amidst friends. Some of them actually believe they were not born to their parents and some consider themselves aliens!

I was surprised to see some adult content with regards to violence, sex and drugs. Most of the young adult books that I have read tend to stay clean. They have deep meanings and address vital issues in society as seen through the hologram of a teen's idealistic mind.

What hits you while reading this book is how the protagonist is "hounded" by these guys in professional "killer" wear. The power of the youth is apparently taken away from him and given to the adults. This is so true with most situations teens find themselves in. Just to be himself, he has to play hide-and-go-seek. And before he can do that, he needs to first figure out who or what he is!

Do not expect a clearcut answer to all the issues raised in this book. It leaves the reader to resolve the proposed thesis. I interpreted the loose end as more an experince of the protagonist wherein he is defined in that moment by what role he chooses for himself. For instance, when he feels the emotions of a human, he feels human and he IS that and when he feels more an automaton, sans emotions, then he is more machine.

This is truly taking fiction to the next level. The complex idea of existence is presented in a very simplistic narrative making it even more amazing. The intensity of emotions experienced by the main characters with little being expressed, paints a true picture of how teens think and "express" themselves. Take some time and discover young adult books. They are worth your time.

Blokes aka Meenakshi enjoys writing along with being a mom, a school teacher, a musician and an Art of Living teacher (of meditation and breathing)
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March 15, 2008
01:54 AM

i am a being... now wouldnt that become a cliche...

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