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The Diary of Pelly D
L. J. Adlington

Publishing Information: Greenwillow Books: New York, 2005
ISBN: 0060766166
: 282 p.
Ages: 14 & Up

Toni V can't resist reading a bit of the journal, and then he's hooked and must read on. He likes Pelly and can't help fantasizing about her, but he's also puzzled. Why did she leave her diary hidden in the city plaza? Why did she scrawl on the front of it, "Dig -- dig everywhere"?

Book Talk:
Toni V is a teenager working for the City Five demolition crew. While drilling through concrete he unearths a battered water can containing a parcel wrapped in faded brown paper. Though he's supposed to turn over anything he salvages, Toni V smuggles the package back to his room, unwraps it, and finds a notebook.

"This is the diary of Pelly D. It's totally secret, so if you're reading it I hate you already."

Toni V figures there's no harm in paging through it since he doesn't even know this Pelly D.

"I'm not being arrogant. That's just the way it is at school ... I'm Pelly D. It's pretty simple. I RULE!"

The more Toni V reads, the more he thinks Pelly D is rich, stupid, and petty. Yet he can't help starting to care for her, especially as her words slowly reveal the chilling state of her world.

"I know it doesn't matter what gene tag you have - Mum's made that clear again & again like a stuck CD. It's just ... How can I face everyone at school if.... "

What happened to Pelly D? Toni V needs to know. And he has one clue:

"Dig -- dig everywhere."
Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Prejudice & Racism
Science Fiction
Social Issues

Awards & Reviews:
Tayshas High School Reading List of the Texas Library Association, 2006-2007
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2006

Gr. 8-12. Starred Review* A young driller breaking up rubble in war-devastated City Five unearths an old water can with a diary inside and then breaks Rules and Regulations by keeping it, rather than surrendering it to the authorities. So begins Toni V's relationship with the diarist, Pelly D, a teen who, before the war, had it all. Toni V enters the everyday thoughts and experiences of a privileged girl who, despite her societal status, may not be protected when the most powerful of the planet's three genetic clans demands all citizens be identified and sorted by genetic type. Although inspired by the buried diaries found in the Warsaw Ghetto, Adlington has crafted an original and disturbing dystopian fantasy told in a smart and sympathetic teen voice. Particularly skillful is the author's use of setting and detail to build slowly toward a full revelation of the unique physical, psychological, and political worlds Pelly D and Toni V inhabit. This provocative addition to the growing body of dystopian literature for teens is a disturbing book that shouldn't be missed.
--Booklist, May 1, 2005, p. 1586 (Starred Review)

On the planet Home From Home, Toni V is a brute laborer, a barely educated member of the Demolition Crew that is busy pulverizing the bombed-out remains of City Five's central plaza. Pelly D is a hip member of the swank elite who used to live in an exclusive apartment fronting the plaza. Their stories come together when Toni V uncovers Pelly D's diary in the debris and, surprising himself, decides to read it. Adlington interweaves the two narratives, the self-absorbed Pelly D writing of the banal ups-and-downs of a spoiled schoolgirl (albeit one descended from test-tube embryos on a colonizing spaceship) and Toni V becoming equally absorbed in a life he can never hope to have. As Pelly D's life begins to unravel, gene tagging having identified her as an undesirable "Galrezi," readers will easily detect echoes of 1930s Europe. Her forced removal to a ghetto makes compelling reading for Toni V, who up to now has never questioned his role in the fascistic society that has clearly supplanted Pelly D's. The peculiarly one-sided relationship between Toni V and Pelly D is heightened by the mystery surrounding her fate: his despair upon finally understanding what has happened to the girl who, through her diary, comes to mean so much to him will resonate with anyone who has ever felt Anne Frank come alive on the page.  
--The Horn Book Magazine, July-August 2005, p. 463

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2005

In this story-within-a-story, 14-year-old worker Toni V unearths the diary of the once pampered, popular 15-year-old Pelly D and, through her entries, discovers the disturbing history of the war and ethnic cleansing that led to his job clearing a bombed-out plaza. First novelist Adlington sketches the history of Pelly D's society, the "brave new world (of the) Colonials" on another planet ("No cars, no violent crimes, & five capitals of Cultural Renaissance on this continent alone"). The colony was settled by inhabitants who arrived in spaceships, were bred in test tubes, breathed through gills and valued water as a precious commodity. The author hints at a sinister practice of gene tagging and a rivalry between the Big Three gene families - the Atsumisi, the Galrezi and the Mazzini - early on in the journal. In a plot development that recalls the events of the Holocaust, Pelly D, her mother, brother and sister are branded with a "G" for the despised Galrezi and must leave their luxurious apartment. Her father (a superior Atsumisi) eventually abandons them, and Pelly learns more about the disappearances that foreshadow her own probable end. Readers may become drawn into Pelly D's plight, but Toni V remains more of a lens than a fully formed character. Still, Adlington (whose author bio says she has a "longtime interest in war diaries") offers a futuristic portrait of the prejudice and hierarchies that can lead to atrocities. Ages 13-up. (May)
--Publishers Weekly, May 30, 2005 p. 62

Gr 7-10--Tony V is part of a crew of drillers excavating the ruins of City 5. While working, he finds a diary hidden in the plaza. Although keeping items from the digs is forbidden, he takes it and begins to read during his free time. It belongs to a girl named Pelly D, who is pretty, popular, and wealthy. But something changes in her life when everyone is required to be tested for gene ancestry, and she turns out to be Galrezi, one of the undesirable genetic strains that society has turned against. Readers witness the shift in Pelly D's life and its inevitable conclusion. The author has clearly based the book on the Holocaust, but the lack of background information about this fictional world leaves readers confused about the true cause of the genocide. Unfortunately, while they get a lot of details about Pelly D's vibrant, glittering rich life, her time in the ghetto is less complete. The true horrors of what is happening are muted until the end of the book, taking away much of its power. The concept is interesting and the world of Tony V is well rendered, but in the end, the novel disappoints.  
--School Library Journal, May 2005 p. 120

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. Why does Pelly D write "Dig -- dig everywhere." on the plain brown-paper parcel her diary is wrapped in?
  2. Why does Tony V decide to read Pelly D.'s Diary?
  3. If you were Tony V would you have kept Pelly D's diary? Would you read it? Why?
  4. Why does Tony V keep reading? Why?
  5. Are Tony V and Pelly D's worlds different, the same? How are they different from your world? Is this just another dystopian society as the Booklist review suggests?
  6. What was Pelly D's life like before she was genetically tested? After?
  7. Why does Pelly D think her father feels important because he is Atsumisis?
  8. Why does Pelly D's mother tell her husband he doesn't have his priorities right?
  9. Why is Tony V afraid of being caught with Pelly D's diary? Why does he think it will get him in serious trouble?
  10. Who are being transported and why are they hiding diaries, photos and their names before they taken away? Why is it important that someone find these mementos?  
  11. Tony V is unable to get "back to normal" now that he's read Pelly D's diary. Why?
  12. Why does Tony V want to know what has happened to the Galrezi?
  13. Why does Tony V feel compelled to tell others about Pelly D and the other Galrezi?
  14. How are Tony V and Pelly D's lives connected?
  15. Does reading Pelly D's diary change Tony V? How?
  16. If Tony V and Pelly D met would they get along? Describe how this meeting might have been different before Tony V read Pelly D's diary and after?
  17. On Pelly D's world there are three different gene families. Why is one considered better than another? How does this compare to "ethnic cleansing" and the Holocaust?

Related Websites:
Anne Frank Guide -

Cybrary of the Holocaust -  

Deadly Medecine -  

Holocaust Memorial Center -  

High School Human Genome Project -

Human Genome Project -  

United States Holocaust Museum -

Social Issues
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, 1963
Double Helix by Nancy Werlin, 2004 (2006 RITBA Nominee)                                         
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, 2002 (2004 RITBA Nominee & Winner)
One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey, 1990
Skinhead by Jay Bennett, 1991

Prejudice & Racism
Copper Sun by Sharon M. Draper, 2006
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy
by Gary D. Schmidt, 2004
New Boy
by Julian Houston, 2005
To Kill a Mockingbird
byHarper Lee, 1960
Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher, 2001(2002 RITBA Nominee)

Anne Frank and Me by Cherie Bennett, Jeff Gottesfeld, 2001
Bearing Witness: Stories of the Holocaust by Darlene Z. McCampbell & Hazel Rochman (eds.), 1991
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, 2006
Briar Rose by Jane Yolen, 1992
Good Night Maman by Norma Fox Mazer, 1999
Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman, 1986
Night by Ellie Wiesel, 1960
Smoke and Ashes by Francine Pascal, 1988

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, 1995                                              Children in the Holocaust and World War II : Their Secret Diaries by Laurel Holliday, 1995
We Are Witnesses : Five Diaries Of Teenagers Who Died In The Holocaust by Jacob Boas, 1995
Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipovic, 1995

Utopias and Distopias
1984 by George Orwell, 1949
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1932
The Giver by Lois Lowry, 1993                                                                                         
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, 1726
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin, 1969
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, 2005 (2007 RITBA Nominee)
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1924)

Science Fiction
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, 1985
Gifts by Ursula LeGuin, 2004
Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card, 1986
The Telling by Ursula LeGuin, 2000
Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien, 1974

About the Author:
After graduating from Cambridge University, L. J. Adlington lived and worked in Japan and Spain before moving to York, England. There, she teaches "hands-on" history lessons for museums, schools, and historical sites. The Diary of Pelly D, her first novel, is based on her longtime interest in war diaries.

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair