Review | Ella Minnow Pea
Author: Mark Dunn
Trigger Warning - Banishment, Imprisonment, Public Punishment
Written in the from of various letters, notes, and announcements, this book tells of the island of Nollop and some of the major changes it undergoes. This island was named after the man, Nevin Nollop, who wrote the phrase, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." In his honor, the people of the island had erected a monument with the sentence spelled out with tiled letters and now, those letters are beginning to fall off. The main character, Ella Minnow Pea, watches as her home falls to madness after the island's council came to a decision: every letter that drops from the memorial statue is henceforth forbidden from use on the island. This is a situation that almost no one ever thought that they would have to live through, creating such an interesting dynamic. The story quickly progresses as the characters struggle with their new reality.
In-Depth Review (contains spoilers)
Losing the use of letters is such a peculiar predicament and gets pretty interesting as we watch the communications between characters change. Anyone could guess that losing the first letter 'Z' would not be very difficult. It's mostly unfortunate for those who have a name with this letter. But otherwise, daily life barely changes. The islanders learned how to avoid words and names with that letter and almost treated it as a challenge. But then it became more serious as the other letters fall.
Humans are resourceful and its fascinating to see how the island residents were able to adapt their ways of communications. It began with just expanding their vocabulary or, in some cases, avoiding written or spoken communication as much as possible. In the end, everyone had to use a form of shorthand to sound out what they were meaning to say rather than properly spell it. Personally I had a difficult time for the last few chapters understanding every word that the characters were attempting to convey, but I got the general idea of the meanings. They were struggling greatly and in Ella's case, she just wanted everything to return to normal.
Overall, this was such an interesting satirical piece. It shows how strong a belief can be. If you believe in something to such a strong extent, you may convince yourself and others of almost anything. The council was so sure that the falling letters were some divine sign, almost as if from a god, and ignored the idea that the glue used on the letters was failing as so many other characters suggest throughout the piece. I also have always enjoyed books that deliver their story in a non-traditional manner such as through methods of written communication as this book does. In a way, it almost makes the book more personal as the letters and notes are written towards the reader rather than another character.
For those willing to read through the ending of the book, I highly encourage it. As I specified, it can be a bit difficult in the end to decipher the meanings behind the writing, but the point becomes clear once all the letters are permitted to return. And it really is a joyous occasion once they do.
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