Great student, skilled actor, loyal boyfriend, good son and brother: Ben Bright’s talents can take him wherever he wants to go in life. When he decides on the Army Reserves instead of college, his friends and family are crushed and afraid. Insisting he’s not going to war, Ben is nevertheless deployed to Iraq, and ends up being hit by a makeshift bomb. When his family gets a call telling them he has a brain injury, everyone in Ben’s life feels the changes in their own. They rally to help him, but, unable to communicate or remember who anyone is, Ben is trapped inside his injured frame.
Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am is based on author Harry Mazer’s experience as an underage enlisted soldier. In relatively few pages, the book (co-authored by Peter Lerangis) discusses many of the issues surrounding injured veterans, yet never feels busy or cluttered. Ben’s best friend and girlfriend become crucial to his recovery process, though they are devastated by his inability to remember them. His parents’ marriage suffers under the accommodations they must make to get Ben well and home again, only to find he feels safer in the hospital. His younger brother’s autism uniquely equips him to draw Ben out of his shell; while everyone else in his life is suffering emotionally over what has happened (and acting out, adding to Ben’s discomfort and confusion), Chris is distant by nature and content to simply talk about memories of his big brother. If he does so long enough, without interruption, Ben’s memories might be led back to his home and family, a crucial step on the road to healing.
Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am tells a bold war story without being overtly political or taking sides; as such it’s a great choice for discussion groups. It’s also an exciting, intelligent, fast-paced read that should appeal to both avid and reluctant readers, providing gripping action and food for thought.