Post-Apocalyptic Reading – Impressions: Dear Diary by Michael Mathis

By | April 20, 2011

Dear Diary by Michael Mathis is short story about the creep up to “Armageddon1” told from the perspective of a twelve-year-old girl living in New York City in the year 2023 writing in her brand new diary.

It sounds like a terribly annoying premise. And, honestly, the premise was the main flaw of the story. This story would have been so much more enjoyable for me had it been written in a perspective I felt the author had a connection with.

As it stands, I felt like I was reading about what a grown man believes twelve-year-old girl to be like, not a true representation of an adolescent girl. It was especially strange because this plucky childish farce didn’t fall when the girl was supposed to be feeling real and tragic emotions. I would have had no idea that she was scared, had she not explicitly stated it. Even then, I was thinking, Why? You don’t care about these people you’re just in love with your damned diary.

Also, she talks to her Diary in her Diary and tells her Diary about what she did with her Diary… As you might imagine, sometimes this is confusing, it’s usually pretty odd and annoying2.

The voice of the adult author often breaks through and clouds the character of the child. For example, she correctly uses semicolons and other writing conventions a twelve-year-old wouldn’t likely 3 but is otherwise kind of an oblivious idiot who makes a point of being unable to spell epidemic4

The sense of immersion was off. Akin to floating in the Dead Sea, where you’re wet and definitely in deep water but there’s no threat of actual submersion much less drowning. I understood it was the diary of a child but I couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough to view it as the thoughts of a child.

I liked the idea of the story and the details but felt another character would have better served them. I actually found myself imagining the story was being told from the perspective of an army mess hall cook, or and inmate, or a hobo accounting his life while the numbers of his camp started to dwindle and occasionally, unintentionally he’d touch back to the education and insightfulness he had once waved like a sword when he charged into the boardroom — back before the coke and the syphilis caught up to him.

I enjoyed the story for the imagination jump off it provided. I could see myself letting my mind wander around in this world exploring different areas and perspectives. I connected with the setting much more easily than I could with the character. The details of the progression and the world building were tragic and easy to visualize.

I would keep reading Mathis’s tales of the end of the world if I could be sure there wouldn’t be so many late in the game typos that didn’t reflect the faltering of the character’s strength so much as the faltering of the authors give-a-shit.

(Dear Diary is free on smashwords.com)

My rating: 3 killer robots out of 5


  1. Which is actually used inaccurately
  2. Maybe if she was 8 or 9, or in a mental institution I wouldn’t have minded
  3. At the beginning of the story
  4. I expect twelve-year-old to be able to sound that mess out. I’d have wagged a finger at her for that.

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