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Simon Says Book Review

Phyllis Rhodes

Simon Says, Collen Dixon's debut novel, takes place in the Chocolate City (Washington, DC) where she exposes us to the worst and best sides of what the city has to offer.  She begins in the ghetto, in the rough, hard streets of the Shaw neighborhood.  We meet Alex "Chip" Baxter, a young, shy, bookwormish boy who lives in the shadow of his popular, good-looking basketball star brother, Ivan. The Baxter boys are motherless.  Their tough, no nonsense father constantly dotes on Ivan and ignores Chip largely because he physically resembles his mother which is a constant, painful reminder to his father. 

When teenaged Ivan meets a premature death, Chip isolates himself further from society and totally submerges himself into his studies.  He is determined to make it out of Shaw to "become somebody"; and ultimately decides that education will be his ticket out of the ghetto.  Alex excels academically and earns a scholarship to Hilliard University.  One eerie night while walking home from the library, a strange twist of fate occurs and sets in motion a series of life altering events.  Alex is literally transformed overnight from a nerdy nobody to the Big Man on Campus complete with membership into the PsiKO fraternity and the DC mayor's daughter, Tiffany, as his girlfriend and future wife.  The DC mayor, Simon Blake, weaves a calculating Svengali-type relationship with Alex and after graduation is deemed "Prince of the City" complete with a mini-mansion in the posh Northeast area of the city.  The fairy tale lifestyle comes crashing down when the proverbial skeletons get restless and emerge from the closet.  Alex's curiosity initiates a roller coaster ride that leads to the discovery of the truth about Simon, Tiffany, Ivan's mysterious death, and himself.  He vows retribution and justice for wronged deeds of the past, but can this former milquetoast and puppet match wits with DC's most powerful, ruthless man to execute revenge and remain alive?

Ms. Dixon delivers a solid debut novel.  Although this reader found the pacing to be a bit drawn out at times, discovered a few repetitive passages, and thought the storyline was somewhat predictable; I believe the character development, imagery, and handling of dialogue was strong for both Alex and Tiffany.  Personally, I would have loved to learn more about Foody, Fortune, and Lisa's lives sans Alex, but perhaps these areas will be covered in a sequel.  Overall, this was a good story from a promising author.  I am looking forward to her next release.
The Nubian Circle Book Club rating for Simon Says is 3 out of 5 stars.  We welcome your comments and thoughts about this book.  Write us at: