REVIEW: Diane Donovan’s Bookshelf

Children usually fall down wells — not teenagers. Adults are usually political influencers — rarely ordinary teens without a name. But Amanda911 poses the question of how the ordinary becomes extraordinary when sixteen-year-old Amanda Dizon’s fall into a well during the presidential primary campaign leads to media attention that places her in the spotlight of news reporting. 

Suddenly, Amanda is a social media star. Neither she nor her family is prepared for the responsibility and demands of this kind of attention. 

The story opens from the perspective of a grandfather who relates his granddaughter’s disaster, but quickly incorporates an irreverent humor into the piece in an exchange that teens and adults alike will find intriguing even as disaster unfolds:

“911 Dispatcher: What’s the address of your emergency?

Amanda (crying): Don’t you have GPS?

911 Dispatcher: Please give me your address.

Amanda: I’m at the bottom of a fucking well! I don’t think they have addresses in wells.

911 Dispatcher: Are you in a safe location?

Amanda: Hellooooooo! Bottom of a WELL.

911 Dispatcher: Do you have injuries?

Amanda: Do you think I could fall down a well and NOT have injuries? I’m not a cat.” 

Ironically, it’s not the emergency crew who arrive first on the scene. It’s a national social media reporter from the new platform PingPong. And so the story evolves. 

Mark Schreiber’s ability to capture a sense of whimsy and fun elevates Amanda’s story as readers enjoy a wry tale narrated from a grandfather’s perspective: “At the hospital they tripped over each other to photobomb her fifteen minutes/seconds/nanoseconds? of fame. Even the president couldn’t resist, Photoshopping himself with Amanda from her knees up with the captions: American wells are safe! And drill deeper! Meanwhile my granddaughter, her left ankle in a cast and her right ankle in a brace, lay in a hospital room that was private in name only.” 

Spoofs on not just political self-interests but social media focuses and self-centered actions that swirl around Amanda and her choices mark a tale that moves from Amanda’s moment of fame and the good times it brings her, to new choices and decisions that affect her friendships and life perspectives. 

Schreiber’s choice of presenting much of Amanda’s experiences from the perspective of grandparents who go along on her journey is involving and especially fun as inter-generational interactions meld with modern-day social media woes and the pitfalls of fame. 

The wild ride through politics, hackers, lovers’ quarrels, changing family relationships, and the decision to either fully embrace or lock out the world makes for a romp that is at once hilarious and thought-provoking. 

While directed to a teen audience, Amanda911 will appeal to adult readers, as well. Its rollicking, sassy tone and special brand of family and social engagement is refreshingly original in voice, playful and spunky in life approach, and powered by underlying realistic inspections of society and culture that will leave readers thinking and laughing. 

Amanda911 is highly recommended as a delectably unique read in a sea of the ordinary, standing out for its social inspections and relationship ironies alike.

From Donovan’s Literary Services and the Midwest Book Review.

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