Review of Chime by Franny Billingsley

Chime is like a fairytale. No, not the Disney kind. Like one of the original Grimms tales, where Cinderella’s stepsisters cut off bits of their own feet.

Chime is like a fairytale told as a stream (or, should I say,river…) of thought from a 17-year -old girl who claims to be a witch.

Chime is, by far, one of the craziest things I’ve ever read.

The main character, Briony Larkin, is trying to convince everyone at her trial that she is a witch and ought to be hanged. She tells them her story, from the moment the electric Eldrick comes to town right through to where everyone she loves is in danger and everything she believes begins to fall to pieces.

What works: Briony has a lot of flaws. Not only is she a witch during a time when people hang witches, she’s also anti-social and hates everything and everyone, including herself. These flaws might seem a little undesirable in a protagonist, but Franny Billingsley has done a very clever job; Chime isn’t painful to read, like some books where all you can think is “stop it with the hate already–your life might be better if you would actually do something.” Briony combines her pessimism with witty satire. Together, with her spunky determination and an impressively unique plot, Chime is a fascinating read.

What I would change: (well, maybe not “change”) Chime isn’t easy to read aloud, as I discovered when I tried to share it aloud with a friend. Briony follows up nearly everything she says with extra words that she thinks. Trying to show that difference without saying “she’s thinking these words” was nearly impossible for me. These extra words are important and often hilarious, so the only fix I could see is: just don’t attempt to read it aloud!

Franny Billingsley not only knows how to tell a good story, she also knows how to tell it in a style that mimics how we humans think. I have loved all the books she’s written, but Chime will always hold a special place in my heart.

 

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