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Book Review: The People Who Watched Her Pass By by Scott Bradfield

"...But it's definitely how kids live today, constantly being monitored and tended, exercised and educated until they're as docile as sheep. Only they don't produce anything useful, like wool or lamb chops. They just shuffle along, doing what they're told, thinking what they're supposed to. They never surprise you. They're always the same as everybody else."

I like this little novella. I liked it before I even read it. Glancing at the cover and the synopsis, I knew that I would more likely than not enjoy it, and, oddly enough, I was right. It's the slice of literature that I've been looking for.

"The People Who Watched Her Pass By" is about a little girl, Salome, or Sal, as she's called, who is kidnapped by a man who is hired to fix the hot water heater. She's three years old at the time, although I don't think her age is ever said in the book, since Sal herself is not aware of how old she is. It's told in third person, but in Salome's perspective. We see everything the way she sees it, so it's not surprising that the people she meets are not entirely drawn or that the events are vague. Even the transitions from chapter to chapter are abrupt most of the time, and the characters don't hang around for long. We definitely get to know them enough, though. She comes across a few weirdoes as well as some nice people.

Sal never stays with anyone for long. Either they abandon her or she abandons them. She never becomes attached to anyone, save for her "Daddy", perhaps, the man who took her. Everyone else is disposable and everyone and every place she comes across is temporary. Sal really is a self-centered, arrogant little girl, and she thinks like an adult, and probably sees herself as one.

The story can actually be disturbing at times, but I have to admit, I was never disturbed by it. I think it's because of the way it was written. It's humorous and a social satire, never heavy. I never felt that Sal was in danger. It never made me believe that anything terrible would happen. Sal certainly views everything with passive interest, so if she was ever treated badly or neglected (which she was in one way or another by just about everyone), she barely seems to notice and soon forgets it anyway. I don't think anything truly horrible happened to her physically, I'm just pointing out her attitude. She was conditioned to not love or care deeply about anyone after she was taken, or maybe she was always that way. Who knows? So now she prefers to wander from place to place, person to person, and do whatever she wants. She doesn't like being told what to do, which is too bad for her since she's just a little kid.

This is a good read. For me, anyway. It can get caught up in Sal's wise philosophy at times and become dull, but overall it's good. And it's short.

My grade: A-


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