Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
In this intense psychological drama, Howe (Bunnicula) delves into the minds of three troubled teens whose lives converge at a seaside resort. Twelve-year-old Evan and lifeguard Chris arrive at the beach loaded down with worries. Evan fears that his parents are on the brink of divorce, and Chris cannot shake the feeling he is living in the shadow of his older brother, who died before Chris was born. Then there is Margaret. Nicknamed Harriet the Spy by Evan's younger sister and described as a "broken shell" by his mother, the strange, silent girl sits at the edge of the sand inventing stories about the people she observes. Attracted to both Evan and Chris, the "watcher" incorporates them into a disturbing fantasy. Segments of her fairy tale about a captive princess are interleaved with scenes depicting the boys' individual struggles. The characters remain separated from one another until the book's riveting final chapter. In a startling turn of events, Evan and Chris become the "watchers" of Margaret, witnessing her torment and saving her from her abusive father. A blend of allegory and stark realism, this grim story offers a host of ironies for readers to explore. If the plot comes off as manufactured or melodramatic, the emotions of characters remain genuine and haunting.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The lives of three troubled teens converge at a seaside resort; PW called the work "a blend of allegory and stark realism [that] offers a host of ironies for readers to explore." Ages 12-up. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
A young girl sits on the steps to the beach each day. She never goes down to the water. She never even touches the sand. She writes in her journal and watches the lifeguard and a cozy family group. Slowly she is noticed, and we are brought into the worlds of those being watched. Their lives are not as idyllic as the watcher fantasizes, but they're better than hers. The mood builds slowly to a to a traumatic, believable climax. This spare novel of an abused child, one stretched to the point of autism, is not what one would expect from the author of the humorous kiddie horror classic, Bunnicula, but it is very effective.
VOYA - Nancy Thackaberry
The three main characters in The Watcher are a far cry from Bunnicula and the Howliday Inn series, but they are equally as likely to capture a reader's attention and stay with them long after the book is finished. Margaret, thirteen years old, is the watcher whose only friend and sanctuary is her journal. Her estranged mother usually is locked in her bedroom listening to loud opera recordings, and her father is verbally and physically abusive. Each chapter begins with entries from her journal, in which she fantasizes about the people she sees around at the beach as a way of escaping her own abusive life. Chris, eighteen, is a lifeguard. He is at a crossroads in his life, torn over whether to try and please his father, whom he never can seem to please, or to continue on his own path. Evan, fourteen, struggles with parents who are distant from each other and from him. Callie, his eight-year-old sister, is convinced their parents are going to divorce, and Evan can't discourage her from thinking so because he believes it, too. Howe weaves the three characters' stories into a fine book that explores one's perceptions of other people. Margaret, Chris, and Evan all meet in a climactic ending that begins to solve their adolescent problems, but Howe craftily leaves the reader wanting to know more. Does Chris go to work with his father or does he go to college? What is the problem between Evan's parents? After Chris and Evan see Margaret's father forcing her head into a sink full of water, does Margaret go into foster care? I want to see the sequels already. Fans of Howe's middle-level books will not be shocked or disappointed by his realistic fiction. He handles these more mature topics in a way that bridges the younger reader to YA literature. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Broad general YA appeal, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
School Library Journal
Gr 7-9Not knowing her name, the other people on the beach call her the Watcher. She brings her notebook to the same spot each day, and she writes and she watches. She watches Chris, the lifeguard. She watches Evan, his sister Callie, and their parents. And she writes. Margaret weaves herself, and those she watches, into a fantasy in which an angel rescues a lonely girl from the clutches of a beast, and then returns the girl to her long-lost royal family. But Margaret's fairy tale is in reality a silent prayer for rescue from her real-life beast, a father who abuses her when she's "been bad." Her fairy-tale rescue becomes reality as Chris and Evan unwittingly witness the abuse and hear her painful, reluctant admission, "My father hurts me." Howe deftly alternates the story Margaret writes with chapters about Chris and Evan and his family in the same way that fantasy and reality intermingle in Margaret's life. As readers come to the frightening realization of what the fairy tale means, they are hurtled toward a gripping scene in which Margaret's father repeatedly holds her head under water. The Watcher is a novel so powerful that even after the last page is read, and Margaret is mercifully saved, her story may be reflected upon again and again.Leigh Ann Jones, Carroll Middle School, Southlake, TX
A sensitively written novel about families, abuse, and the power of words from Howe (Pinky and Rex and the Bully, 1996, etc.).
Chris is a golden young man: lifeguard at a beach on Long Island, just out of high school, and trying to determine what he should do next. Evan is a younger teen, caring for his little sister, Callie, and admiring Chris. Both boys notice that watching them is a silent girl, who sits on the steps looking out at the beach each day, and writing in her notebook. Her name is Margaret, and she is composing a fairy tale about her life, with Chris as her angel and Evan as her adoring brother, rescuing her from the Beasther abusive father. Unfolding delicately, this summer-long dance also reveals the loss in Chris's family and the struggle of Evan's parents to stay together. Howe's portrayal gains strength through the goodness of the characters and the honesty of the details of their lives. Evan is deeply devoted to his little sister and his parents, even as he is tempted by a gang of "Gap-ad Huckleberry Finns"; Chris knows that to find himself, he needs to solve the riddle of his family's loss; and Margaret, who has survived through myth and isolation, rescues herself by finding the words to say what her father does to her. Emotionally compelling to a heart-stopping conclusion.