From the Publisher
"This is a lovely, sweet coming-of-age story."
—VOYA, 3Q 4P M J S
"Lovely descriptions highlight this story for readers who enjoy a bit of history and mystery with their romance."
"Wallace deftly uses the Spiritualist fervor of the 1920s period setting to populate her novel with characters who are paralyzed by ghosts of the past, both real and metaphorical, and demonstrates the need to balance honoring the past and living in the present."
—The Horn Book Magazine
VOYA - Sharon Martin
Ever since Clare's father died three years ago, she and her mother have traveled the world and have now arrived in a seaside resort town. Exploring the backyard, Clare finds a locked glass house, but the housekeeper hides the key when Clare asks about it. Clare finds a way in anyway and meets Jack. She realizes that he is a ghost and then realizes she has fallen in love with him. She also knows he needs to leave by walking up the hill into the mist. Clare sees her friends in a new light as her relationship with Jack deepens. She becomes less content to just go along with their plans. This is the summer she grows into choosing to think for herself. As Clare discovers who Jack really is, and comes to terms with her own maturing, both of them are able to move on. This is a lovely, sweet coming-of-age story. Set in the 1920s, there are few actual details of the decade so there is a sense of timelessness to the story. Having had to become adept at reading and gauging the grownups around her, Clare's insights are refreshing even if she sometimes comes across as older than her years. There is a confidence in her voice with which readers will want to identify. Despite the ghost, some spiked lemonade, and some chaste kissing, this is not an intense bookit would be very suitable and comfortable for younger readers. Reviewer: Sharon Martin
Children's Literature - Beverley Fahey
In a small seaside town in the 1920s, twelve-year old Clare and her mother have come to spend the summer "season." Since the death of Clare's father three years before, her mother has refused to return to the family home. A quiet and introspective girl, Clare discovers a glass house hidden from view of the main house and inhabited by the ghost of a young boy. He says his name is Jack and while Clare cannot see him, she feels his presence and tries to help him discover the mystery of his identity. Outside of the glass house, Clare attempts to enjoy the escapades of her friend Bridget and the young boys whose families summer with them. Kissing games and flirtations embarrass and confuse her, and the glass house becomes more and more of a refuge. She becomes more determined to help the lonely Jack move on, as well bring her mother to terms with the fact that all Clare really wants is to go home. There is much beauty in the writing of this debut novel, but unfortunately Clare's voice is mature beyond her years. The dual plots of the ghostly boy and Clare's coming of age with Bridget and the boys don't always mesh well, and each suffers from awkward shifts in narration. It may be difficult to find an audience for this story. There are several mature themes that require an older reader but teens are less likely to read a novel with a twelve-year-old protagonist. The ending is abrupt, with Clare's mother's change of heart coinciding too neatly with Jack's release from his earthly bounds. It is a clever story with complicated characters. Even though the pace is slow, readers are rewarded with a well told tale. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Since the death of her father three years earlier, Clare, 12, and her mother have traveled continuously to fill the void left by his passing. Their latest haunt, an estate in a seaside resort town, harbors a mysterious secret-a glass house inhabited by the ghost of a young boy who remembers nothing of his past. Her mother's friendship with her best friend's father leaves Clare unsettled and yearning for home. Despite the housekeeper's disapproval, she increasingly seeks out the ghost's company, only to become infatuated with him. He returns her affection, but doesn't share her exuberance to uncover his identity. When a friend's ill-judged decision goes awry, it is Clare who resolves it, thereby setting right the rift that has developed between her and her mother. Wallace's writing is descriptively lush, leaving readers with a vibrant feel for the story. The opulence and extravagance of the 1920s shine through while the plot exhibits elements of melodrama, some parts having an almost gothic feel. An interesting piece that fans of historical fiction are sure to appreciate.—Rebecca Gueorguiev, New York Public Library
In this convoluted ghostly romance set during the 1920s, a privileged set of early teens devoid of positive adult role models uneasily navigates relationships, sexual feelings and jealousy. Readers will connect readily with Clare. The youngest of her group at 12, she is ambivalent about leaving childhood behind; the emotions of the others are often impenetrable. What is clear is that none have responded well to parental abandonment: Power-hungry Teddy, 15, drinks; precocious Bridget, 13, plans marriage as an escape; inseparable friends Denby and Bram, both 14, face changes in their relationship. In Clare's case, she misses her deceased father and, given her mother's string of "importunate" suitors, is desperate to know how a good man behaves. Then she meets Jack, the ghost in the glass house. His touches are soft, and, invisible, he can be anything Clare imagines. This provides a sharp contrast to Bridget's manipulations. She takes up with Denby in an effort to make Bram jealous, but Bram is interested in Clare. Denby's motivation is opaque--regrettable since, in a pivotal scene, he becomes inexplicably violent. That Clare's mother should suddenly assume parental responsibility is unconvincing, and the resolution leaves some threads hanging. Die-hard young romantics may embrace this; others will not mind letting this one slip away. (Historical fantasy. 12-16)
Read an Excerpt
Clare Fitzgerald had seen so much in the twelve short years of her life that she could almost always guess what was going to happen next.
So when she came around the side of their new summer home and saw the strange glass house winking at her from the stand of trees at the foot of the yard, she was caught between two feelings. She knew the first one well: the annoyance of a seasoned traveler who is confronted by a cabaret that has just opened at an address where she expected to find a reputable bank, or a reputable bank that has just opened at the address of a former cabaret. The other feeling, just as strong, took her longer to name because it was so rare. But after a moment she admitted to herself that it might be wonder: a deep thrill of suspicion that, despite everything she and her mother had seen, they had not yet exhausted all the world’s mysteries and treasures.
At first glance, the glass house was a riot of reflections: sky and cloud, white brick, the pale underbellies of leaves. Then it resolved into a glass building held together by copper beams gone green from exposure to wind and rain. It sat about fifty paces from the big white brick house she and her mother were moving into that day. A stand of young maples shaded the glass walls, which were further screened by climbing roses that crept all the way up to the slanted panes of the roof.
As a rule, Clare preferred to take her pleasures in small doses, bit by bit, instead of gulping them down whole, as her mother did. Under normal circumstances, she might have circled the whole yard, surveyed the lay of the land, inspected the surrounding gardens, and taken the measure of the glass house from a dozen different vantage points before she made her approach. But sometimes life forced her to make exceptions. Today was one of them.
Clare had made her escape only a few minutes earlier, in the confusion surrounding the arrival at their new summer home. If she lingered too long now in any one place, her mother would almost certainly take her captive again. Clare didn’t know when she’d be able to get away next. And she’d never seen anything like the strange glass house glinting in the trees.
She glanced down briefly at the uncomfortable velvet and cardboard slippers her mother had insisted she wear on the train. Then she cut straight across the wide yard with the cheerful hope that they might suffer some mortal damage in the course of her explorations.
The back lawn rolled down from the substantial rise where the big white house was set. Clare wound her way toward the glass house between silver magnolias, waxy redbud, and disheveled lilacs, punctuated by stands of blue iris with lily of the valley massed at their feet.
When she reached the maple grove that sheltered the glass house, wind breathed softly through the young leaves overhead. Bits of pollen glowed in the air around her like tiny embers, then winked out as the light shifted. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the new shade and for her to realize that the glass house didn’t have corners like other buildings: it was an octagon with eight sides fastened together, so that the room it formed was more like a circle than a square. The evergreen leaves of the climbing roses were so thick that she couldn’t see anything inside: just tantalizing flashes of color blurred by the clouded glass.
Furthermore, it didn’t seem to have a door.
Clare started around one side, found nothing but wide panes covered with vines, then doubled back, and found nothing when she started around the other side. Her brow had begun to furrow with disbelief and frustration when, at the very back, perfectly opposite the big white house on the hill, she discovered a narrow pane of glass, about the height of a man, not so overgrown with vines as the rest. Unlike all the other glass, which was weather-stained but unmarked, this pane was etched with an oval pattern so intricate that Clare thought she saw half a dozen false letters in the crabbed loops and curls, although, when she looked closer, none of them resolved into actual words.
It took her only a moment longer to discover the handle of the door, half hidden by the same vines that curled over the mossy flagstone at her feet and met in a canopy over the green copper door frame.
The handle was copper green as well, more like a paddle than a knob. She turned it down to release the latch as she squinted to peer through her own reflection at the mysterious shapes inside.
The door didn’t budge.
She pulled the handle up. No luck.
Then she saw a small neat cut in the embellished metal below the handle: a keyhole.
The glass house was locked.
Frowning in concentration, Clare made another quick circle of the building, looking for a key box or a hiding rock or even a stray garden fork with tines long enough to tease the lock open. When she didn’t find any of these, she settled on a short hardwood twig, about the same size as a bone from her hand. She hunched under the handle and fiddled the twig this way and that, listening for the telltale click of the mechanism as it swung free, a trick she had learned a few summers before when her mother had befriended the ship’s detective on a trip across the Atlantic.
He was a pale, gangly scholar with a boy’s face and prematurely gray hair who had been given the job of detective by his uncle, a member of the shipping company’s board, due to his complete unsuitability for any other work. He’d spent the voyage under the misconception that Clare found his responsibilities as a detective boring while her mother found them fascinating: an almost perfect inversion of the truth. So the young detective would only speak to Clare’s mother about his work when he believed Clare was asleep. As a result, Clare had spent the week feigning sleeping fits on the lounge chairs of the second deck, listening with rapt attention as he regaled her mother with the exploits and methods of the modern bank robber, jewel thief, and bootlegger, all adventures he’d culled from various publications on the topics and not from personal experience, which he spent the bulk of his formidable intelligence trying to avoid. But despite Clare’s long tutelage on those bright afternoons, the lock on the door to the glass house held fast.
Clare dropped the twig into the glossy myrtle that hid the roots of the roses, cupped her hands around her eyes, and pressed her face to the etched glass.
Inside, the vines cast gnarled shadows over a confusion of furniture arranged on an assortment of overlapping oriental rugs, which produced a visual effect so jumbled that for a moment Clare couldn’t tell where anything began and anything else ended. The sun, with no interference from shutters or drapes, had taken its toll on all the fabrics, brightening some, erasing others. Now, at full noon, it made the whites blaze. Piercing glints shot from the domed case of an anniversary clock and the tarnished surface of a silver vase. Then a hodgepodge of mismatched, castaway pieces began to fall into place: a pair of mulberry leather smoking chairs. A delicate sea-green divan with a back that swelled up over the curve of the seat like a wave about to crash on the beach. A low table with several mysterious drawers. A buffet crowned by the anniversary clock and vase, along with an assortment of books and candlesticks. And, just to the left of the locked door, the black shadow of a grand piano, positioned so that the player would play with her back to the big house, looking through the propped cover into the half-tamed forest that overtook the yard a few strides beyond.
Clare glanced up at the big house to make sure she had not been discovered, then pressed her face back to the door, half surprised to find that everything inside remained just as it had been. The glass house was so strange that she wouldn’t have blinked at seeing exotic birds now perched on the piano lid or all the furniture suddenly replaced by a scrap of a white desert with a lone Bedouin disappearing in the distance.
She’d heard all about the desert from one of her mother’s friends, Mr. Pedersen, when he’d arrived last year in Paris after his visit to Arabia. Clare’s mother had listened to his reports with the special enthusiasm she brought to a conversation when she was secretly bored to tears, but Clare had been captivated, especially by his claim that in the desert, the silence was so complete that he had spent an entire leg of one solitary journey singing aloud to reassure himself that he had not gone deaf. This silence in particular appealed to Clare, and since then she had begun to imagine a desert that could appear to her anywhere, like a reverse mirage, when their travels turned overwhelming. As she and her mother rushed to catch a train that shuddered and hissed in preparation for departure, Clare would look up at the mirrored windows of a sleeping car and suddenly know that a beautiful desert lay within, in full darkness, complete with stars, but without a sound except the sand that whispered underfoot. Or as she followed her mother down the dim hall of a club for lunch, shivering under the thin taffeta of
a fancy dress, she’d catch sight of a few grains of white sand spilling through the crack of a closed door: a sure sign that the strong desert sun waited for her within. Once or twice she’d actually struggled down the length of a train or snuck into a club’s private rooms to test these intimations and found only a Pullman bunk and an empty library. But these disappointments didn’t discourage her. Instead, they felt like clues: false leads crossed off a list that would one day bring her to the edge of the real desert, wherever it lay hidden.
Despite all this, the summerhouse remained resolutely as it had been. Clare straightened and let the sun blot out the room with the reflection of the trees and sky. She tapped absently at the glass, three impatient raps with the tip of her index finger.
A moment later, as if in answer to Clare’s unconscious scrap of code, the glass tapped back.
Instantly, Clare cupped her hands and pressed her face to the door.
Inside, everything stood exactly as it had. The only motion she could catch was a shiver in the shadows as wind stirred the leaves overhead. She turned her head, looking for something that might have knocked against the glass: a loose chain, a trapped bird. If there was anything, she couldn’t see it.
“Hmm,” she said aloud.
She narrowed her eyes. Then she tapped again, more deliberately: one, two, three.
This time, when the glass tapped back, the vibrations tingled in her palms and forehead.
She sprang away. For a few breaths, she glared at her own reflection tangled up in the weird etching.
Then she lifted her chin to hide her fear and ran back up to the big house.