Bank (short for Bancroft) Jonsson is your rather typical high school sophomore. He’s tall – six foot four – and but not coordinated (or interested) enough to play basketball. He’s interested in girls but tends to get clumsy around them. He’s just gotten his driver’s license. And his best friend has just moved from their small Oklahoma town to Minnesota, and Bank is feeling the separation.
Oh, and his mother, Meredith, has distributed (or dissociative) identify disorder, meaning her body is occupied by numerous personalities. If you’ve seen the 1957 movie The Three Faces of Eve with Joanne Woodward or the 1976 movie Sybil with Sally Fields, you’ll know what DID is. It’s a difficult disorder, not the least of which for the fact a cure is not known. Patients can be cured, but there’s no set path for that to happen.
Bank, a normal teenager living not quite the normal teenager’s life. He’s become rather expert at identifying which personality has emerged at any given time. He also recognizes that new student at his high school has DID.
Jill Case Brown’s young adult novel Safe is the story of Bank, his family, and his friends. Brown tells a fine story, a story that respects both its teenage characters and the teenagers who will read it. I stayed wrapped up with the book almost start to finish; it was that difficult to put down.
What happens is that none of Bank’s friends really understand what DID is, and that leads to a succession of events that are life-threatening. Bank becomes the target of misunderstanding and meanness by one of his former friends. And his schoolmates turn against him.
Brown catches the scene and substance of life in a high school just right, with all of the emotional highs and lows (often at the same time), hopes, dreams and fears common to any high school experience.
For Bank, though, the experience is anything but common. Brown gets the reader inside his head, and inside his heart.
Safe is simply a wonderful story.
Illustration: "Dissociative identity disorder" by 04Mukti. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.