CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 8. . . .October 26, 2012
Defenseless opens on a nameless, 21-year-old protagonist as he wakes up in the hospital, unaware of what has happened to him. Joey, his girlfriend, explains that he was the victim of a brutal assault instigated by two guys, but four others soon joined in. When he finally recovers, he makes it his mission to find the two assailants and bring them to justice in his own way, returning the favour with as much destructive force as he can muster. When it all goes down, though, it doesnít leave him feeling as satisfied as he had hoped. This book, though short, is full of philosophical insights, pop culture references, and heart.
Wilson sets out with a reason for writing his book, and he succeeds, at least in part. Entire chapters are written more like philosophical treatises rather than chapters of a work of fiction. At one point, Wilsonís narrator says, ďIím not trying to write a sociology essayĒ but proceeds to anyway, exploring the psychology behind his desensitization to violence in entertainment, his experiences with violenceóbeing the victimóand seeing the effects of violence on a complete stranger at the hands of his friends. The book ranges in tone from torn emotional young adult to self-reflexive and introspective student. However, since the book is semi-autobiographicalóWilson being the victim of a violent attack when he was 21óone cannot fault the author for having some of his own self-analysis emerge within his protagonist.
I do wish the narrative was slightly less introspective and more fluid, providing evidence of actual moments of angst and confusion (i.e. more show, less tell). The tone of the narrative paired with the moments in which the audience is told the characters is confused or torn is counterintuitive, in a sense, confusing Wilsonís overall intentions. I am not attempting to discredit the entire book, however, as the insights that Wilson does provide within the narrative are grounded, inspiring, and all-too-real. The musings of his protagonist are not entirely unwarranted either since he is in university and most likely has some background in philosophy or psychology that inspire the internal monologues.
Younger teen readers will most likely find the novel too didactic, providing philosophical insights with a revenge plot woven through, rather than the other way around. Older teen readers will hopefully read the novel with an eye for the internal struggle of the protagonist so they can see the motivations for revenge complete with the eventual downfall that often accompanies such desire. Overall, a book worth reading, but with a critical eye; this is not your typical story of cruelty and retaliation.
Rob Bittner recently graduated from the MA in Childrenís Literature program at The University of British Columbia and is now a PhD student in Gender, Sexuality, and Womenís Studies at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC.
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