By Samantha Johnson, 2012-2013 AmeriCorps member serving on the National Grid team with Blackstone Elementary School
“Sometimes she wished just for this – to be nothing, to be nowhere, to be empty. Sometimes she wanted a life in which nothing at all happened to her. Sometimes she wished she was like a story that had never even started … As well as being wonderful and exciting, growing up could just be hard, so bloody hard.” (My Name is Mina, 238)
In David Almond’s My Name is Mina, we explore a world of a not-so-average girl. She is a dreamy type who has vast ideas and is not one for a conventional way of life. Mina is very mature for her age and spends the novel learning to be comfortable in her own shoes, similarly to how a teenager or an adult might, making this story relatable for all ages. While it is written appropriately enough for this young audience, it covers themes that even I, a 22-year-old, identified with and even benefitted from.
Mina goes through challenges children shouldn’t have to face. We first meet Mina as she’s struggling to deal with the death of her father. She copes in unconventional ways, such as sitting in a tree in her front yard while she watches her neighbors and acting out in class until the school has no choice but to dismiss her.
She finds her comfort and safe space through writing. Her voice is strong in the sense that the reader can feel very connected to her throughout the story. It is easy to imagine Mina as her personality shines through dialogue and description that is a reflection of her daily thoughts. Taking the journey with her is endearing and fulfilling, especially when we see her grow and overcome her grief.
The story touches along what it means to grow up and what goes along with that, including life, love, death, and the cycle of life itself. The novel is a prequel to Skellig, also by David Almond, which is a story about Michael, a boy who has just moved into a new house across the street from Mina.