Take my Word for It
The cover I have announces: “Marina had SO MUCH TO TELL YOU, now it’s Lisa’s turn…”
SO MUCH was about going-on-15-year-old Marina, who was just starting at Warrington, a boarding school in Australia. It and TAKE MY WORD FOR IT are “epistolary”-style novels, made up of journal entries because an English teacher has asked them to keep journals–like in DON’T YOU DARE READ THIS, MRS. DUNPHREY! by Margaret Peterson Haddix.
In all three cases, journal-keeping becomes more than an assignment: it’s the way these girls try to keep their heads together. In SO MUCH, it was the only voice Marina was using since a Traumatic Event several months earlier. She willingly recorded her impressions of Warrington and her dorm-mates and other classmates, and thoughts about her family and life before the Traumatic Event. But although it’s an assignment, she’s uneasy about her teacher, Mr. Lindell, reading it, although he said the most he would do would be check once in a while to make sure the girls were writing something, preferably non-gibberish. And suppose she happened to lose track of her journal and her dorm-mates would snatch it up and read it (as well they might, in frustration that the new girl doesn’t speak)? She notices one particular dorm-mate more and more, especially on weekends when everyone else but the two of them are being visited or taken out for the weekend by their families. At one point, she is concerned and intrigued when she catches this girl in an unguarded emotional moment.
“This girl” is Lisa Morris, and TAKE MY WORD FOR IT is her story.
I’m not sure when or how I learned of TAKE MY WORD, except that it was not promoted anywhere on my copy of SO MUCH (Marsden’s first book, in fact, published in 1987). According to TAKE MY WORD’s information, it was published in hardback in 1992 and paperback in 1993–then reprinted every year from ’94 to ’97 including TWICE in ’96. Well, whenever I did find out about it, it was ages before I could find it and then more ages before I could acquire it! It was definitely worth it, and I hope you will think so too!
TMW doesn’t just present another side and dimension to Marina’s story (it starts on about the same day, then carries on for about 2 more months after Marina signs off). Lisa Morris has her own things going on: her own views of dorm-life and her dorm-mates; her own activities and interests…and her own secrets. Her parents are divorcing and one parent might be rushing into a new relationship. Lisa is trying to get past some other terrible things that have happened…things that nobody observing her aloof demeanor could possibly guess. Somebody does venture to tell her that she’s kind of hard to get to know, and after she has a good think about that she does consider trying to reach out more; she just knows the risks of that entirely too well.
Marsden is again “writing what he knows”; he’s a teacher who probably made his students keep journals like Marina and Lisa’s teacher, Mr. Lindell, does. In fact, he dedicated SO MUCH to “Lisa” and Acknowledge-s “the real Marina” in TMW, which he dedicates to “one of my teachers.”
Early on, Lisa mentions some quotes that a classmate has collected, including one from “someone called O.J. Simpson.” REALLY?! Well, as she says in a description of Marina (who didn’t even describe herself much in SO MUCH), “you never think people will step out of the news and into your life.” SO MUCH doesn’t reveal Marina’s surname, except to note when it’s “pronounced correctly for once.” When her mother visits Warrington in TMW, Lisa refers to her in her journal as “Mrs. Marina” and “Mrs. M.,” also describing her more than Marina did in SO MUCH.
Lisa does turn some fine phrases throughout, such as descriptions of a few dorm dustups, her reaction when a major assignment to which she had given her “all” gets stolen, harsh words for a “boyfriend” when the relationship sours and sweeter ones for the one who sounds more like a keeper, what she imagines (or hopes) Heaven is like, and the attitudes of current vs. WW2 soldiers. Speaking of words, the “In the silence of the night” poem from SO MUCH turns up again and Lisa shares a few other girls’ takes on it.
Will she reveal her worst secret to her journal? And how will she handle one parent’s own “big reveal”?
Take MY word for it: if you’ve read SO MUCH TO TELL YOU, your Warrington experience is not complete until you have read TAKE MY WORD FOR IT.
Thanks for reading. God bless.