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Breaktime by Aidan Chambers

Breaktime (1978)

by Aidan Chambers

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Lady Wombat says:

After reading Cordelia Kenn, I decided to go back to the beginning, and read Aidan Chambers' YAs from first to last. Breaktime was Chambers' first, characteristic of the innovation and experimentation taking place in the genre during the 1970's. A first read for me, not having encountered Chambers as a teen myself.

17-year-old Ditto is challenged by his best friend Morgan to prove that literature can still play a meaningful role in a contemporary world in which film and television have taken over the task of conveying narrative. What follows appears to be an autobiographical account of a weekend during Ditto's school break, during which he considers how his relationship with his father has changed since the latter's illness, goes camping and meets two other men who have troubled relationships with their own fathers, and loses his virginity to a girl whom he had admired but who had moved away before he summoned the courage to do anything about his attraction. Ditto gives his writing to Morgan, but Morgan says the narrative doesn't prove anything about literature, since it is based on truth. But is it, asks Ditto? Perhaps I simply stayed at home and made it all up...

Chambers nods in the direction of Joyce's Ulysses (the greatest book that people hardly ever read, according to Ditto's English teacher), but the novel is more reminiscent (if one can be excused for using the word when referring to later developments) of postmodern bricolage; Ditto's narrative shifts from first person to third, from comic strips to theater dialogue, whatever form best suits the story and the emotions of the events Ditto wishes to convey. The parallels between Ditto's life and the events of the story within the story are occasionally a bit too pat, which makes sense when you find out that Ditto may have invented the entire thing -- literary symbolism can be a bit heavyhanded to the skilled reader, no?

What I found most appealing is how intelligent these kids are portrayed as being -- no dumbing down, no construction of the teen as inherently selfish and self-involved, as in so many contemporary YA books. Ditto and the other teens he interacts with think, and feel, deeply, intensely, intelligently. A reader has to work hard at times to understand, especially to fill in gaps in the dialogue, but this is part of the pleasure of reading Chambers.

Now on to reread Dance on my Grave, one of my favorite YA novels of all time.
  Wombat | Jun 13, 2011 |
Ditto's friend Morgan thinks all literature (and more specifically, fiction) is rubbish. Ditto decides to use his writings based on his experiences during half-term to prove him wrong. There are daddy issues, virginity issues, unexpected bonding with new people, and structural/stylistic experimentation, none of which I really found myself in the mood for. ( )
  mari_reads | Aug 16, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 081097262X, Paperback)

The first two novels in Printz-winner Aidan Chambers’s Dance Sequence are at last available in a fresh format that will draw teens to these classics of YA literature.

Literature is crap. Fiction is, anyway. A pretense. Ersatz. . . . When you read a story you are pretending a lie. —Morgan


What begins as a game for Ditto—the refutation of his friend Morgan’s Charges Against Literature—quickly escalates into a multilevel challenge. After Ditto’s father suffers a heart attack in the middle of one of their fights, Ditto decides he has to get away for a few days to sort out his life. His chronicle of his experiences becomes his rebuttal to Morgan’s Charges. But is this thought-provoking examination of people and ideas all fact . . . or fiction? Aidan Chambers leaves it up to the reader to decide in this novel that Publishers Weekly calls “excruciatingly funny as well as touching.”


Includes a new afterword from the author!


Praise for Aidan Chambers

Michael L. Printz Award winner

Carnegie Medal winner

Hans Christian Andersen Award winner

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:34 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A classmate's challenge to prove that literature is related to real life spurs Ditto to leave home during spring vacation and chronicle his life-changing adventures.

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