Book review: What I Did ★★
What I Did by Christopher Wakling is the story of six year old Billy, who is having a grumpy day the same as his dad is having a grumpy day, while at the park he sees an opportunity for adventure and runs away from his father while he is on the phone and nearly gets run over. His father smacks him in his anger and his relief that Billy is unhurt, unfortunately for Billy and his dad a passer-by observes this event, reports his father for child abuse and the lives of the family are changed forever.
This is such a hard book to review as I had very mixed feelings while reading it, the concept was so interesting but reading it was like watching a car crash, I had very strong repulsive feelings while reading and I completely felt like I didn't want to keep reading. Being me, I have to finish anything I start, I know its stupid but I feel compelled to. It was definitely a weird feeling.
The novel is entirely told through Billy's perspective, and I really struggled with that. Having read Room and enjoyed it I didn't expect to find myself so frustrated by the child in this story, I found myself getting incredibly annoyed and angry with Billy myself basically because his childlike logic was so flawed, to the point where I felt like throwing the book across the room. That logic was basically that Billy's Dad had told him that the incident was over, in the past, and so Billy refused to tell the social workers what actually happened, but still told them enough for them to believe that he was being abused. Now I know I was a talkative child, so maybe a bit different, but even at six if I realised that things were serious and some scary grownups were asking me to talk I would have opened my mouth and talked for England.
Further frustrating is that the adults in the story didn't check all the facts, there is a moment where Billy is talking about his favourite David Attenborough documentary and the social worker thinks he is talking about being abused. I got so angry about that point in the story because a decent social worker would have profiled the child enough to realise that he was obsessed with David Attenborough documentaries and looked into wider possibilities for Billy's words. As someone who has studied child psychology (admittedly only at A Level) I know you have to think a little further outside the box when it comes to what kids say.
The ending of the novel actually turned out to be nowhere near as devastating as I had been imagining which was a huge let down for me, after persevering I wanted a strong conclusion, but the story was neither happy nor sad at the end, simply meh. The moral to the story lacked resonance because it was being taught to a six year old, if the voice of the novel had perhaps been Billy as an adult reminiscing on the impact his silence had on the situation, it may have felt more important, but as it was, the conclusion left me feeling quite empty of feeling.
Overall this book simply left me annoyed, which is disappointing because I wanted to love this book. I think if you are able to cope with being frustrated to the point of nausea while reading a book you could probably read this, but for me it was an incredibly difficult read!