‘Don’t Call Me Ishmael!’ is the story of Ishmael Leseur, a fourteen year old boy, and his tempestuous life at St Daniel’s College. Ishmael begins the book by bemoaning his name which has caused him much suffering. He says he has Ishmael Leseur’s Syndrome for which there is no cure. His father will tell the story of how Ishmael came to have his name to anyone and everyone at all opportunities – to Ishmael’s constant embarrassment.
This novel is an entertaining look at high school life, and includes issues such as bullying, girls and, what to do with your annoying little sister. Along the way, we meet Barry Bagsley, the school bully who is not at all funny, Miss Tarango, the pretty new English teacher and the new boy James Scobie, geek incarnate.
The pace picks up as Ishmael is talked into joining the debating team, and he ends up in the excruciating situation of being first speaker with no preparation and no warning. This horrible incident has some unexpected consequences.
What this book does so well is to deal with the issue of bullying in an innovative and unexpected manner. When Ishmael is given the perfect chance to get his revenge on the bully, he does something quite unprecedented.
I found this book a hilarious and delightful read, and often found myself laughing out loud, as I shared with Ishmael one excruciatingly embarrassing incident after another. This novel is witty and clever with language, and the geek James Scobie is a masterful portrayal. However, behind the amusement, some important issues are resolved in a way that is not simplistic and the emotion is real and authentic.