The Girl in the Well Is Meby Karen Rivers
Longing to be one of the popular girls in her new town, Kammie Summers has fallen into a well during a (fake) initiation into their club. Now Kammie’s trapped in the dark, counting the hours, waiting to be rescued. (The Girls have gone for help, haven’t they?) As hours pass, Kammie’s real-life predicament mixes with memories of the best
Longing to be one of the popular girls in her new town, Kammie Summers has fallen into a well during a (fake) initiation into their club. Now Kammie’s trapped in the dark, counting the hours, waiting to be rescued. (The Girls have gone for help, haven’t they?) As hours pass, Kammie’s real-life predicament mixes with memories of the best and worst moments of her life so far, including the awful reasons her family moved to this new town in the first place. And as she begins to feel hungry and thirsty and light-headed, Kammie starts to imagine she has company, including a French-speaking coyote and goats that just might be zombies. Karen Rivers has created a unique narrator with an authentic, sympathetic, sharp, funny voice who will have readers laughing and crying and laugh-crying over the course of physically and emotionally suspenseful, utterly believable events.
Rivers (Finding Ruby Starling) adheres to the advice that fiction writers “give their characters trouble” in this psychological horror story. Over a day and night trapped in a well, Kammie Summers, 11, recounts a horrific year. After her father’s incarceration for a heinous crime, a beloved relative dies of cancer, and a bus kills the family dog outside their New Jersey home (which the bank is repossessing). The Summers relocate to “Nowheresville,” Texas, exchanging a life of plasma-screen TVs and horseback-riding lessons for a trailer where Kammie shares a bedroom with a brother who doesn’t like her anymore. Asthmatic Kammie doles out the details of her downward mobility while the mean girls who tricked her into falling into the well look down and laugh. Rivers writes intense scenes of hallucinatory prose as the sky darkens, and oxygen deprivation causes Kammie to imagine dead goats beneath her feet, spiders attacking her legs, and the company of a French-speaking coyote. The stream-of-consciousness narration recalls Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” but claustrophobics will probably want to read something else. Ages 10–13. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Mar.)
A Top 10 Spring 2016 Kids’ Indie Next Pick “Darkly humorous . . . honest and forthcoming . . . [Kammie’s] reflections in the heart of darkness (both literally and figuratively) are where the story hits its stride . . . It’s in the quiet moments when Kammie is along with her thoughts—which become surreal hallucinations—that the book comes alive . . . original and truthful.”—New York Times Book Review “A brilliantly revealed, sometimes even funny, exploration of courage, the will to live, and the importance of being true to oneself. The catastrophe draws readers in, and the universality of spunky Kammie’s life-affirming journey will engage a wide audience. Moving, suspenseful, and impossible to put down.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review “The inimitable voice of 11-year-old Kammie Summers is not one you will soon forget—in turns wise, sad, hopeful, frightened, hilarious. Rivers does a masterful job...”—Buffalo News “A hypnotic, utterly original novel . . . Guilt and forgiveness, truth and lies, family and self, friendship and social hierarchy--The Girl in the Well Is Me doesn’t so much tackle these subjects as absorb them into its natural fiber. Young readers will take in tough-and-tender Kammie as their own . . . and the suspense and anxiety of her situation will leave every reader breathless until the final page.”—Shelf Awareness “I dare you to pick up this riveting novel without reading straight through to its heart-stopping conclusion. Karen Rivers has penned a dazzling voice, at once hilarious, heartbreaking, and searingly honest. The Girl in the Well Is Me is a triumph.”—Katherine Applegate, Newbery Medal-winning author of The One and Only Ivan “A gripping story that doesn’t shy away from the dark places but explores them with heart, humor, and light.”—Kate Messner, author of All The Answers “Funny, surreal, occasionally heartbreaking…a compulsively readable story.” —School Library Journal “The danger will grab readers quickly, and their inevitable investment in Kammie will keep them breathlessly engaged through to the conclusion, perhaps even in one sitting if they can get away with it.”—The Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books “This is a fascinatingly well told story that strongly reminded me of Libba Bray’s Going Bovine, but with a completely believable middle grade flavor.”—Teen Librarian Toolbox / School Library Journal “Superb . . . acrobatic . . . Karen Rivers is able to dive so seamlessly into the darker themes of growing up . . . Because of the tone and persistence of [protagonist] Kammie, the reader never loses faith that, although times may seem impossibly tough, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.”—Cleaver Magazine “It should strike a chord with its tween audience.”—Booklist “Interesting and well-written.” —San Francisco Book Review
Gr 4–6—Kammie Summers is wedged partway down a well shaft, unable to move her arms and possibly running low on oxygen. In a funny, surreal, occasionally heartbreaking stream-of-consciousness narrative, Kammie ponders the clique of girls whose mean-spirited initiation ritual caused her fall down the well and who don't feel as much urgency about her rescue as Kammie (and readers) might hope. She contemplates her mother, frazzled from working two jobs; her father, in prison for embezzling money from a children's charity; and the fallout from her dad's terrible decisions, including their move to the backwater town where her attempts to make friends led to this catastrophe. Kammie's spiky but sympathetic narration yields a compulsively readable story, traveling swiftly from friendship woes to sibling conflict to conversations with the silver Francophone coyote she hallucinates as the oxygen situation deteriorates. Rivers provides Kammie—along with the coyote and some unfriendly zombie goats—authentic feelings of guilt, anger, loneliness, and self-pity about her circumstances in and out of the immediate danger of the well. Though the book confronts both the specter of death and the reality of parental betrayal, Rivers has a middle grade audience in mind; the tangential meandering keeps the pacing snappy, and Kammie emerges from the well reasonably intact. The narrative falters at the very end as uplifting resolutions come too easily, but middle grade readers likely won't mind the rosy lens. VERDICT An unusual story with uncommonly truthful emotions.—Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY
Kammie's fallen down an abandoned well, beyond the reach of the three mean, popular girls who got her into this life-threatening mess. Her perilous situation is really the culmination of a series of calamities that she gradually reveals in her unforgettable stream-of-consciousness monologue. First, her father was convicted of embezzling money from his employer, a charitable organization that provided wish fulfillment for critically ill children. She, her struggling mother, and her angry older brother moved from their foreclosed New Jersey home to a Texas trailer to be near her father's prison. Her dog was hit by a bus. Her grandmother died. The misfortunes have piled one on top of another. Striving to find a new self and a few friends, Kammie let herself be victimized by the nearly interchangeable Kandy, Mandy, and Sandy, who have—perhaps intentionally—set her up for the fall into the well and then abandoned her there. With so many horrors crowding into her 11 years, Kammie's tale should be a tragedy. Instead, it's a brilliantly revealed, sometimes even funny, exploration of courage, the will to live, and the importance of being true to oneself. The catastrophe draws readers in, and the universality of spunky Kammie's life-affirming journey will engage a wide audience. Moving, suspenseful, and impossible to put down. (Fiction. 10-16)
- Algonquin Young Readers
- Publication date:
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.60(w) x 7.10(h) x 1.00(d)
- Age Range:
- 10 - 14 Years
Meet the Author
Karen Rivers has written novels for adult, middle-grade, and young adult audiences. Her books have been nominated for a wide range of literary awards and have been published in multiple languages. When she’s not writing, reading, or visiting schools, she can usually be found hiking in the forest that flourishes behind her tiny, old house in Victoria, British Columbia, where she lives with her two kids, two dogs, two birds. You can find her online at karenrivers.com or on Twitter: @karenrivers.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Karen Rivers has written a truly unique and quirky novel with lots of dark twists and turns. Imagine you suddenly fall into a well one day. How would you feel? Terrified? Shocked? Desperate? That is exactly how 11 year old Kammie Summers feels when she falls down a well. Kammie is the new girl in Nowheresville, Texas and she longs to be one of the popular girls at her new middle school. During an initiation ceremony into the popular girls club, Kammie falls into a well. Kammie waits in the dark, ominous well and hopes that the mean girls have gone to get help. As the hours pass, Kammie slips deeper into the well and her feverish mind starts to wander. Soon, Kammie starts hallucinating and finds herself accompanied by zombie goats and a French-speaking coyote as she reflects upon old memories and abandons any hope of rescue. Will Kammie ever be saved from the gaping maw of the well? This book is suited for older and more mature readers since some scenes are overwhelming and may upset sensitive people. At times Kammie has long flashbacks about her past that can be confusing. This book also has some very funny and humorous scenes which will have the reader laughing. Overall, this book is a deep and captivating read. Roksanna K, age 11, Broward County Mensa
Where was Lassie? Lassie always helps people in difficult situations and she definitely was in such a situation right now. She believed that no one was going to save her, she believed that the horrific smell that filled her small space was the smell of death and that it came from the misfortunes of others before her, and she also believed that she was going to die. Kammie’s thoughts are all over the place as she contemplates what led her to be stuck inside the well. These thoughts are mingled with hallucinations which added imagination and drama to the storyline. As Kammie life is on hold and her mind is racing with erratic thoughts, three girls watch from above, their leisurely pace and jeering remarks add frustration to Kammie’s world. Kammie knew these girls were not the group she wanted to belong to, for popularity also meant cruelty yet here she was, stuck in a well while the girls looked down at her from above. The sky above changes color as the day wears on, Kammie’s thoughts become usual and the girls walk away promising to return. The oxygen is quickly vanishing all the while Kammie begins to slide deeper inside the well. Mean girls and bullying, their taunting and their deliberateness to stretch out Kammie experience inside the wall frustrated me. I was waiting for justice to be served on these girls. As they watched from above, I hoped that someone would come upon the scene and witness what they were doing but it didn’t occur like that. These mean girls continued to taunt her and waste precious time and when they left, I was impatient and nervous for the outcome. Kammie’s reflections in the well appeared quickly, they were things that were important to her or images that had stuck with her over the years. They showed the true Kammie. I didn’t find the story suspenseful but I felt calmness as I read it. As Kammie stood paralyzed stuck between the walls of the well, she knew who she was, she was figuring out the missing pieces of her life. Her obsession with goats and coyotes put a smile on my face and the ending was not what I expected. I’m torn between 3.5 stars and 4 stars. I wanted more closure at the end of the novel but I did like Kammie’s random thoughts, the authenticity of the bullying and Kammie as a character, for I think others will be able to identify with her, so based on this information, I will give it 4 stars. Thank you NetGalley and Algonquin Young Readers for supplying me a copy of this novel to read. This review is my own opinion.