Hello. My name is Anna. I am fourteen years old and a very shy person.I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. You probably have tones of better things to do than sit around listening to me.
What else do you want to know? I’m Anna and I’m shy. And fourteen.
That’s really all there is to tell.
Of course, there is more. Anna is shy. She lives with her mother and two sisters in a rambling old house. She’s also very good at making things, very smart, and tends to blend right into the background.
She is so good at going unnoticed, in fact, that when she decided not to start school, she faded right into the curtains, much to her mother’s dismay. Since then, she has constructed an an elaborate system of tunnels and false walls, and has been living inside the walls of the house. Her family hasn’t actually seen her in years. She follows their lives through peepholes and overheard snatches of conversations, and takes care of the house and her family as best she can.
But Anna is almost fourteen, and her crawlspaces are getting smaller. She can’t take a bath in the kitchen sink any more. And when she finds a love letter in a crack in the wall mysteriously addressed to “A,” she answers it, staring a chain of events that will bring her out of the walls for good.
This is not a book for every reader. I know some people find the premise of this book disturbing, the child that fades away. I found the idea of Anna creating herself a whole parallel world inside the walls fascinating. If I’d read it when I was ten, I would have been enthralled. Mind you, if it had been told from the point of view of one of Anna’s sisters, it could have been a very creepy story. But Anna is such a strong character and has such a matter-of-fact approach to life that it mitigated the potential unsettlingness of the premise for me.
I think it’s a book like Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. How scary or disturbing it is depends on who’s reading it. (Although first, that’s usually true to one degree or another, and second, Coraline seems to be a book that gets scarier in direct proportion to the age of the reader–the older you are, the creepier it is.)
The premise is unusual, but I don’t really expect ordinary from Patrice Kindl. (Not when compared to Owl in Love, anyhow.) Part magic realism with a dash of young romance, try it if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary.