- Backwards by Todd Mitchell
“I was alive, alone, and trapped in the body of a dead person.” So says our nameless narrator, who comes to consciousness in just as teenaged Dan is leaving said body after slitting his wrists. What’s odd, though, is that each awakening brings the narrator and Dan to the previous day, so that together they go back in time to uncover what led Dan to this desperation: his interest in a girl who is raped at a party he invites her to, a situation that spirals down every time he attempts to help and support her. The narrator despises Dan, seeking to make him a better person and maybe avert his eventual suicide, but he soon realizes that he’s actually moving Dan toward the very outcome he’s trying to prevent. The writing often tells rather than shows, tending toward the melodramatic at times, and it’s initially difficult to get past the unsympathetic personalities of both Dan and the narrator. As the days continue backward, however, the story becomes more interesting, and the fact that the narrator is, though he doesn’t initially realize it, the spirit of Dan himself, provides an unusual perspective on what is essentially his self-loathing and also on the random and conflicted thinking that can bring a teenager to the precipice. The result frames the fatalistic thinking of depression in a fresh way, making this a thoughtful read and a provocative title for discussion.