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Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite
“You just continue to break the rules and make a mess of things.” Such are the memorable admonitions we receive in childhood. Young Frank Nappi heard this prophetic utterance from one teacher when, according to older Frank Nappi, I Became An Elementary School Outlaw. Possessing an uncanny knack for vivid recall, both Franks seem to possess a well-nurtured knack for not letting go, something he talks about in Chapter One of this deceptively funny but subversively psychological memoir. Older Frank attempts to understand himself by reliving (so vivid are his recollections) those events during elementary education when younger Frank endured his earliest defining moments. What is so remarkable about this process of excavating primary causes for unconsciously-motivated adult behavior is how quickly the reader becomes sucked in by the compelling narrative, written astonishingly well, and thus becomes intensely invested in its outcome.
Frank Nappi may seem a bit obsessive when concentrating on the often humorous, often devastating consequences resulting from his assertion: I Became An Elementary School Outlaw. As he states: “Third grade residue is everywhere.” But this incredibly tantalizing and strangely powerful memoir is neither an apology for nor a condemnation of his childhood predilections. Instead, with the mastery of a magician’s misdirection, Mr. Nappi subtly immerses the reader in his own, personally directed psychological investigation. Without immediately knowing it, we wind up sharing and comparing our own youthful experiences, coming to the somewhat troubling conviction or question: What kind of elementary school role did I play, and how does it affect me now? One admires and hopes to share Mr. Nappi’s unrelenting commitment to answering such a question. And hopefully, as he did, come just as close to finding one. This is an extraordinary book, and incredibly well written.