Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Pub Date: October/01/2009
The guys huddle closer and murmur; the girls’ heads incline together and they whisper. They’re all talking about me. I’ll bet if they were naked I could see their tattoos. They’ve been taken. They’re waiting for me to be taken too.
I force myself to walk past them, even though I have the overpowering urge to run. Or scream, tell them I know all about their plans. Why me? I’d like to ask them that. I hesitate. Maybe I should ask them. Maybe there’s some shred of humanity left in one of them and they’ll help me escape.
After watching a tv program about Otzi, a 5,000-year-old “Ice Man,” Kit’s friend Ike becomes convinced that Kit’s destiny is to become the next ice man—a source of information for future generations. Together they obtain artifacts they think will accurately reflect life in the early twenty-first century and plan their journey to a nearby mountain. Kit gets tattoos similar to Otzi’s, writes a manifesto and tries to come to terms with making the ultimate sacrifice. As he grows more and more agitated and isolated, his family and friends suspect that something is terribly wrong, but before they can discover the true severity of the situation, Kit and Ike set off on what could be their last journey.
2011 CCBC Best Books
2010 Governor General’s Literary Awards Finalist
2010 White Ravens Selection
2009 Resource Links “The Year’s Best”
2009 January Magazine “Best Children’s Books of the Year”
Canada Council for the Arts ~ GG Awards Jury – October 2010
Me, Myself and Ike is a gripping novel full of surprises. K.L. Denman’s masterfully-crafted first-person narrative on schizophrenia sweeps the reader along as Kit Latimer descends into a terrifying world where the real and imagined have no discernible divide. Denman manages to portray Kit in a way that is both realistic and sympathetic.
CM Magazine – September 4, 2009
“An intensely edgy, first person account of a troubled teen descending into a paranoid, psychotic state…Denman is a responsible, caring, and skilled writer who drops subtle breadcrumbs throughout her story and provides an afterword explaining this mental illness…Denman is to be commended for tackling this issue straight on. Highly Recommended.”
Publishers Weekly – October 1, 2009
“A stark and fascinating portrait of a paranoid and delusional teenager…Denman deftly gets into the head of a mentally unwell teenager while telling a coherent, engaging story.”
Quill & Quire – November 1, 2009
“The fact that Denman exhibits such flexibility within the confines of a first-person narrative, while also maintaining the reader’s feelings of empathy for Kit, is an undeniable accomplishment. While the writing is seamless, the subject matter is challenging…Completely riveting, suspenseful, and heartbreaking, Me, Myself and Ike is one of the best young adult releases of the year.”
School Library Journal – December 1, 2009
“While the story is about a young man with a mental illness, it is also a well-told, readable mystery, brimming with suspense. An author’s note giving details about schizophrenia adds an additional level of clarity to the novel’s ending.”
VOYA – December 1, 2009
“This harrowing journey through the mind of a paranoid schizophrenic never hits a wrong note. Especially laudable is Denman’s ruthless adherence to Kit’s point of view…Demonstrating a powerful control over her prose, Denman builds Kit’s decline in subtle increments that ramp up the suspense as readers note each new failing…Try this one with readers who like their stories dark and intense.”
Resource Links – October 1, 2009
“Denman has done her homework in this novel. She does not waver from Kit’s point of view, not an easy task when the main character’s thinking is so disturbed….A compelling novel of a young man’s descent into schizophrenia. Highly recommended.”
One year later …
Some things just aren’t what they seem.
Ike, for example. I know he’s not who I thought he was. He doesn’t talk to me anymore but I wouldn’t say he’s dead, nor can I believe he never was. The fact is, he did exist, even if he was a hallucination. When I think back on our conversations, they’re as real as any other memory I have.
It isn’t easy to wrap my head around that. At first, Dr. Hayes might just as well have tried to convince me that nothing is real. And who’s to say?
In the support group I hang with sometimes, there are people who used to think they were superheroes. One who says they held conversations with dead rock stars. Another who says they’ve talked to Jesus. Are we ill? More or less, as in sometimes more and sometimes less. But for me, knowing what I’m dealing with makes a difference.
Medication was the biggest ticket to silencing Ike. Sometimes, strange as it seems, I miss him. I don’t miss his nastiness, but he did keep me company when no-one else could stand me. Mostly, I don’t miss him and according to Dr. Hayes, I could be one of the lucky ones, someone who got help early enough to prevent the psychosis from hard wiring itself in my brain.
There was a bit of a setback a couple months ago. I was feeling so great, felt like I had everything under control. I’d almost completed my Grade Twelve courses online and had started building a canoe with Fred. So I stopped taking my meds. I figured I didn’t need them anymore.
Big mistake. I still need them. The paranoia was the first thing to start chewing me up again, but my family caught on fast and we got that sorted out.
Dr. Hayes put it to me this way. “You have a chemical imbalance, Kit, and it’s here to stay. It’s rather like a diabetic who needs to take insulin — they can’t manufacture it through will power and it’s no different for you. I know you’re smart. Can you accept this?”
I told her I could, and not just for me, for my family too. They don’t deserve the sort of garbage I can dish out when I’m in the big fat fist of psychosis. Sometimes I wonder what I’d do without them.
When Fred hangs out with me it’s good because with him, everything’s straightforward. We get busy playing some one on one and it all comes down to just that, the ball, the hoop, the hollering. He doesn’t cut me any slack. And he laughs a lot. It’s the laughs that make it great.
I’ve got a job, part time, back at the golf course and I like it, especially because Ben is still working there too. With him, there was a backward sort of reconciliation. He said, “Sorry, man.”
I figured I should have been the one apologizing, so I asked him, “For what?”
He shrugged. “We were friends. I knew something was wrong. I should’ve been there for you.”
I said, “I don’t blame you for not sticking around, Ben. Besides, you’re here now.”
“Yeah. I am. So, maybe we should celebrate.”
“I figure that back-packing trip we used to talk about doing would be good.”
“That would be fantastic. Where do you want to go?”
We decide on Europe and just having the dream, making the plans, it’s all sweet, right up until we get into the gear we need to bring with us.
I say, “Uh. Do we need to bring a laptop?”
“Are you nuts?” And then his face flushes red and he looks away.
I laugh. “Just checking.”
He punches my shoulder. “Very funny. Now if we could be serious here for a minute? We won’t need very much stuff.”
“You have no idea how happy that makes me. No stuff.”
Ben pauses for a bit then asks, “So, Kit. Do you know why you did it? Tried to be an Ötzi I mean?”
We’re outside, sitting on the lawn, and I lie back on the grass and look up through the branches of a tree, find the sky beyond. “Not really.”
He says, “No? Do you think it was like one of those cries for help?”
“It wasn’t that. Believe me, I didn’t think I needed any help.”
“It was more like I was the one doing the helping. I thought it was like an important mission, something I had to do for future humanity.”
“Sort of like donating your body to science?”
“I guess. Only I wasn’t done with my body yet.”
“No kidding. You missed a step in there.”
I nod. “Yeah. A big one. Life in the here and now.”
The young men are high, higher by far than the fleeting heights they once reached from a trampoline. The mountain stands vast and solid beneath their feet and the sky feels so near it’s not so much above as surrounding, a blue immersion in space.
Kit and Ben have made it to Similaun Mountain and as they approach the cairn that marks where Ötzi’s mummified body was found, their footsteps slow until they arrive at dead stop. They gaze at the stone obelisk, gaze about the place; try to imagine what once was. They picture a battle, a wounding, a death. Ice.
Ben says, “I read about him. There are quite a few theories about who he was, eh? I think my favorite is that he was a Shaman because of some of the plants he had, stuff with medicinal properties. Do you think he was a medicine man?”
Kit shrugs. “Maybe. All I know is that whoever he was, Ötzi, or Similaun Man, or Frozen Fritz, whatever you call him, we can’t know him at all, can we? Not his real name. Not who he loved or hated or what gave him joy or sorrow. What he thought about.”
“But let’s say he was a Shaman…” Kit hesitates. Softly, he says, “I wonder if he communicated with the spirit world. Heard voices.”
“You think?” Ben asks.
“I don’t know.” He frowns and looks hard at the cairn. “I don’t think it would be like me and Ike. He just lived in my head. I know that.”
“So what’s the difference if a Shaman hears voices?”
“I don’t know that either. This is more like a feeling. Like if there are spirits around, they’re in everything. In the trees, the animals, the mountain. Us.”
“Are you talking about a soul?”
Kit shrugs. “Maybe. I don’t know what it’s called but it’s bigger than just us. It’s everywhere.” His gaze drifts, becomes unfocused. “Did you know that time moves more slowly on the top of a mountain?”
Ben wonders for a moment if he should be worried about his friend. But there’s no sense of tension; it’s only idle musing. And yet he’s suddenly aware that Kit knows things he’ll never know. Not that he’d want to pay the price Kit paid to get that knowledge. “Are you good?” he asks.
Kit nods then takes a deep breath, expells it noisily. Has a sudden memory of how hard it was to breathe when he climbed his last mountain. He takes a breath again, exhales, and says, “Maybe that’s it right there.”
“What do you mean?”
“We just have to keep breathing.”
Ben takes this in. “Works for me.”
Kit frowns. “But maybe we shouldn’t think too much about it.”
“Thinking too much — it can make you crazy. And then you can’t notice how great life is.” He grins and adds, “Like right now.”
They wander away from the cairn and settle on a rock, which like every rock everywhere, provides a perfect view of the world. The inclination to talk leaves them. There is so much in the silence, such a wealth of peace, that speech is forgotten. Even thoughts have difficulty forming in the face of such beauty. Time ceases to be and eternity settles.
When they go, they carry the air of the mountain with them.