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62 dagar Cilla Naumann, 62 dagar (62 days)

Alfabeta,  2011.

Reviewed by Kristina Sjögren in SBR 2012:2

Over the sixty-two days of the Swedish school summer break, much in fifteen year-old Tom’s life changes. The summer break is spent in the holiday cottage by the sea as usual, together with his parents and eighteen year-old brother, Brorsan. The holiday village is full of friends Tom only meets in summer, among them Lassemiss, whom Tom has known and played with all his life. It is only this summer that Tom is old enough to fully realise that Lassemiss is slightly mentally disabled.

And this summer Tom has his own moped for the first time, which he enjoys riding around with Miriam’s soft arms round his waist, and he spends much time tinkering about with it in Arvid’s garage. One evening, Tom and Brorsan are lured into taking part in a boyish prank, which is, however, taken more seriously by the community than they expected. All the boys in the gang are called into the police station for questioning, and Brorsan, full of hatred, declares that Lassemiss must have snitched on them. When Lassemiss shortly after dies in a terrible accident, Tom is devastated. Not only has he lost one of his oldest friends, but he worries terribly about whose fault Lassemisse’s death might be…

62 dagar is Cilla Neumann’s third young adult novel. It is a bit of a psychological thriller, and Neumann manages to keep the suspense up all the way through the book. But like Istället för att bara skrika, this is also a book about teenage identity with its pains and fears – only 62 dagar is about teenage boys instead of girls. One of the most important themes of the book is death. Not only Lassemisse’s death and funeral, but also those of Tom’s grandparents are discussed in detail, while depicting Tom’s mixed-up feelings and sorrow:

I’ve been told that Lassemiss will be buried without being burned to ashes first. I’ve been told that it will be a different sort of burial from Grandad’s and Granny’s. But it’s only now I understad that his body will actually be lowered into the ground in front of us all.

That his mum is to stand there in the sunshine, and watch while he is lowered into that black hole, with all of us watching. That the vergers will shovel soil on top and that Lassemiss will lie down there and rot with his body full of worms while we ride past on our mopeds for the rest of the summer. That he will lie down there every summer from now on. For ever.

I’ve been told, but I can’t take it in.

Naumann’s prose is exact and descriptive with no unnecessary wordiness. The sentences are quite short, which makes the book easy to read; it is almost like an Easy Reader. This, in combination with naivety of the protagonist, makes the book suitable for young readers from 9 years or so. 62 dagar is, however, more sophisticated than it seems at first glance. In its seemingly simply constructed prose, the book is a masterly portrayal of small, frightened teenage souls trapped in growing, awkward, sweaty bodies. The claustrophobic sense of not being in control, the hate-love of the parents, the inability to express oneself adequately in words, the impossibility of mastering one’s emotions; reading 62 dagar brings back memories of what it was like being a teenager. I judge this novel to be suitable for readers up to 15, and it might well appeal to boys who are reluctant readers.

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