Private: In praise of Wonder When You’ll Miss Me

I first became aware of Amanda Davis’ Wonder When You’ll Miss Me when Davis was killed in a plane crash earlier this year.

Back then, several friends raved about it. Others, most of whom hadn’t read the book, dismissed it as an Oprah contender. They’d learned (spoiler alert) that the protagonist is a girl who returns to high school after a suicide attempt following a gang rape perpetrated by some football players who want to see if the rumors about sex with fat girls are true. Although she’s lost weight when the story begins, the narrator is trailed by an imaginary fat girl who’s always stuffing herself with junk food.

“C’mon, Maud, nobody can pull this off,” my skeptical friends said.

I didn’t want the naysayers or the praise following the plane crash to affect my assessment, so I waited until some time had passed before reading.

It turns out Davis’ novel is far from gimmicky. Not only is the prose precise and transparent, but the candid first-person narration is a relief from the microscopic, but oddly detached, third-person point-of-view that seems to be in vogue these days. (So few writers do the close third person well, it’s a pity everyone is trying to jump on the bandwagon.)

While the imaginary fat girl grates on the odd occasion, and I can imagine critics arguing that the start of the book is insufficient preparation for the ending, overall Wonder When You’ll Miss Me is far more affecting than most books I read this year.

It opens this way:

At school I was careful not to look like I watched everything, but I did. The fat girl fell into step beside me. She had a handful of gumdrops and sugar on her chin.

“There are all kinds of anger,” she said. “Some kinds are just more useful than others.”

A locker slammed behind us. I tried not to speak too loudly, because no one except me saw her. “I’m not angry,” I whispered.

“Saying you’re not angry is one kind,” she said. “Not very useful at all, though.”

To read more of the first chapter, go here.