Can’t Go Wrong with Tried and True

If this book were dinner, it’d be pot roast.  That’s because author Jan Siebold doesn’t use fancy techniques or exotic ingredients in her novel, Doing Time Online.  But the reliable story elements she does include satisfy like comfort food.

Doing Time Online by Jan Siebold, 2002

Post Format: Q & A

What’s up with the title?  I don’t like it, but it is descriptive.  A practical joke gone wrong lands 12-year-old Mitch at the police station.  As punishment, he must participate in the OLD (On Line Discussion) Friend program for juvenile offenders.  For two days a week, for a month he must “chat” with a nursing home resident via computer.

What tried and true method is used to tell the story?  Much of the novel is told through the online correspondence between Mitch and Mrs. Wootie Hayes, the Maple Grove resident he is assigned to write. That makes Doing Time an epistolary novel, one narrated through a series of documents.  Epistolary novels are popular today, but they are nothing new.  One of the most famous is Dracula, Bram Stoker’s 1897 horror novel told through letters, diary entries, and newspaper accounts.

What makes this novel work?  A quick pace, a good villain and an unlikely friendship.  Wootie Hayes is wise but no sweet old lady.  The nursing home is the last place she wants to be.  Mitch got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The police station is the last place he wants to be. And so they bond.  Here are two of their online exchanges.  The first one occurs at the start of the book, the second one at the book’s end.

Walking Across Egypt
Bonus Bit: Another great book that involves friendship between an old lady and a troubled youth is Walking Across Egypt by Clyde Edgerton. It was made into an excellent movie starring Ellen Burstyn.

Wootie: How old are you?

Mitch: Twelve. How about you?

Wootie: I’m NOT twelve.  Now tell me why you’re here, Mitch.


Wootie:  I wasn’t too thrilled about the whole thing, either, you know.  I didn’t like the idea of talking to someone through a computer instead of face-to-face.  It was something Nurse Nag-a-Lot said that finally convinced me to try it.

Mitch:  Really? What did she say?

Wootie:  She said that she didn’t blame me for not wanting to chat with some rotten little loser.  That’s when I said, “Sign me up.”  I set out to prove her wrong.  And I guess I did.”

QUESTION:  I can’t resist a story with an unlikely friendship.  Anyone know any good ones?

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2 thoughts on “Can’t Go Wrong with Tried and True

  • May 4, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Sound like good read. Is it YA?

    • May 4, 2016 at 4:47 pm

      I don’t think this book is edgy/mature enough to be called YA. (My perception of YA is books for ages 14 plus though I may be mistaken.) It’s perfect for an elementary school library though.


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