Award-winning author David Almond reintroduces readers to the perceptive, sensitive Mina before the events of Skellig in this lyrical and fantastical work. My Name is Mina is not only a pleasure to read, it is an intimate and enlightening look at a character whose open mind and heart have much to teach us about life, love, and the mysteries that surround us. Mina loves the night. While everyone else is in a deep slumber, she gazes out the window, witness to the moon's silvery light. In the stillness, she can even hear her own heart beating. This is when Mina feels that anything is possible and her imagination is set free. A blank notebook lies on the table. It has been there for what seems like forever. Mina has proclaimed in the past that she will use it as a journal, and one night, at last, she begins to do just that. As she writes, Mina makes discoveries both trivial and profound about herself and her world, her thoughts and her dreams.
My Name Is Mina is a prequel novel (written after its more well-known counterpart Skellig, as they often are) laid out in epistolary format via Mina's notebook. At night, while all the rest of the world sleeps, Mina's mind is awake and racing. Here, in this journal, she tries to make sense of all the fragments of thought that race through her mind. Mina is a child who naturally sees the world a little differently than most... and for this, she is relentlessly teased whenever she tries to attend public school. After some time of back and forth between trying to fit in at school and mental health breaks at home (weeks at a time), Mina's mother decides to just home-school Mina full-time, not wanting to forsake her daughter's unique mind and personality just to fit into "the norm".
My stories were like me. They couldn't be controlled and they couldn't fit in. Trying to be a good girl sometimes made me very sad. I will write about the sad things, of course, because there is no way not to write about the sad things. And there are sad things in my life. Weirdly enough, the sad things in my life make the happy things seem more intense. Anyway, I will try to make my words break out of the cages of sadness, and make them sing for joy.
I personally read this book before I read Skellig, but honestly I think it would serve readers better to read Skellig first. This novel focuses more on Mina personally, only lightly touching upon the events of Skellig here and there (the biggest reference is how Mina comes to know Michael from the original story), but I think if readers read Skellig first, the references in My Name Is Mina will be easier to comprehend and tie into the original story. It was also interesting to see the character growth of Mina from this prequel to Skellig. Here -- maybe it's because we get to know her through her journal rather than dialogue, I don't know -- her personality, via her written down thoughts, felt much more manic, frantic in tone to me than in Skellig, even though there's only a day or so passage of time between the two stories. But people do tend to journal thoughts a lot more passionately than we speak them, so maybe that's what I was experiencing.
I really enjoyed the relationship between Mina and her mother. Who doesn't love mothers who encourage creativity and uniqueness? :-) Society standards be damned! I also appreciated how Mina's mother honestly gave everything Mina said serious consideration, never brushing it off as just a child's silliness, instead saying something to the effect of "you might have a point there." I found the walk & talk they have near the end especially touching.
*just one moment in that walk & talk
I liked getting to know the background of such a unique character as Mina, but my eyes weren't necessarily glued to the page here. This is a good supplemental read if you really enjoyed Skellig and want to know more character history. A solid read for easy entertainment, and it offers a look into how to possibly treat those with unique thought processing and life outlooks more kindly, rather than feeling threatened when their ways are not like yours.
POSSIBLE TRIGGER WARNING: There is a character Mina discusses near the end of her journal who uses cutting as a way to process pain.