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The Watcher

The Watcher

4.2 41
by James Howe

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A mysterious girl, dubbed The Watcher, spins tales of rescue from her lonely perch above the beach. She closely observes the actions of two people she has never met: a fourteen-year-old boy whose family seems perfect and a handsome eighteen-year-old lifeguard. Their lives become intertwined -- and their troubling truths are revealed.


A mysterious girl, dubbed The Watcher, spins tales of rescue from her lonely perch above the beach. She closely observes the actions of two people she has never met: a fourteen-year-old boy whose family seems perfect and a handsome eighteen-year-old lifeguard. Their lives become intertwined -- and their troubling truths are revealed.

Editorial Reviews

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
Kirkus Reviews
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 Beast—her 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.

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
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Sales rank:
890L (what's this?)
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

James Howe is the author of more than ninety books for young readers, including the modern classic Bunnicula and its highly popular sequels. In 2001, Howe published The Misfits, the story of four outcast seventh-graders who try to end name-calling in their school. The Misfits is now widely read and studied in middle schools throughout the country, and was the inspiration for the national movement known as No Name-Calling Week (NoNameCallingWeek.org), an event observed by thousands of middle and elementary schools annually. There are three companion novels to The Misfits: Totally Joe (2005), Addie on the Inside (2011), and Also Known as Elvis (2014). Howe’s many other books for children from preschool through teens frequently deal with the acceptance of difference and being true to oneself. Visit him online at JamesHowe.com.

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The Watcher 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Chris, ¿the watcher¿ and Evan are three very different people¿or maybe not. Chris, the lifeguard at the local beach spends his time daydreaming why¿ll watching little kids play in the ocean out of the corner of his eye. Although on the outside all may look perfectly in place on the inside memories of the past are eating him alive. ¿The watcher¿ or ¿the flake¿ is a teenage girl who sits and watches the people on the beach as they go about their daily lives. She pictures herself as part of the picture perfect family¿s that come and sit on the beach every weekend. She¿s always writing in her notebook¿always watching. Evan is also by himself unless of course you count his little sister who is almost always with him. Although on the beach they may be the picture perfect family at home is a whole different story. The book ends with a dramatic conclusion with all three characters coming together. A life will be saved, a picture will be found, and the strange music from the house around the corner will stop.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a deep book that has good details and pulls you in toward the middle and end. Toward the end it is a shocker. It deals with the real world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is really wierd, but it is really good. It deals with topics that are in the news today and with current issues. It is really deep and confusing at the beginning, but overall, it was a pretty good book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Watcher is about a girl who is abused and tries to become a part of the 'perfect family'. this book is okay because it dosent give much description and has a weird plot and story line. It wasnt what i thought it was.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is great reading for a mature teen. It is very deep and confusing but it all comes together at it the end. I also thought personally it was very weird.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Simply put, this is the best book I've ever read. It's the most moving story I've had the pleasure of reading. It deals with a very real problem that people tend to turn a blind eye to. I don't see how anyone could not love this book, unless they just aren't capable of understanding the importance of the obstacles faced by each character.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was really interesting because it was awesome how James Howe had three totally different characters in the book. It is a great book, I didn't want it to end, but it's very sad to think somewhere it really could be happening.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked this book. If you like books that deal with lifeguards and girls become watchers in life, then this book is for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Evan, a thirteen year old boy, and Callie, his younger sister do a lot together. They love going to their lake house and playing on the beach. Callie's favorite thing is when Evan puts sand all around her and shapes her into a mermaid. Evan wishes that he could become one of the 'cool kids' because sometimes hanging out with Callie, isn't always fun and games. Callie is afraid that her parents are getting a divorce. That¿s all she talks about to her friends. One night, Callie was telling Evan that she has noticed a girl, always watching them on the beach. 'You know what I think? I think she's a spy, Harriet the spy' said Callie. Evan tires not to listen to her, but then him, and the beach lifeguard, Chris Powell both notice the girl also, sitting on the steps everyday. All three of them become worried, all she does is watch, she doesn¿t swim, doesn¿t play in the sand, doesn¿t play with friends, she doesn¿t even move. One night, as Evan was coming home from a friends house, he passed by 'the spy's' house, he thought she washing her hair in the sink, with her dad, but didn¿t see any shampoo, and she was crying. What was really going on? I thought this book was just O.K. There were times when I just wanted to stop reading it. You didn¿t understand the real concept of the story, until the end, which was pretty boring. I wouldn¿t recommend this book, though it wasn¿t the worst book I've read. I thought the author could have done a better job of describing some of the characters. Some of the characters didn¿t really have any part in the story, they talked about them all the time, but barley talked to them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is so realistic. It deals with the different ways teenagers cope with pain, and it just pretty much sums up horrible experiences. This book is extremely well written, but a bit shorter than I would have liked.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a very good book. It did have some language in it, but other than that it was very captivating! I recomend it to about 13 and up since it does have some heavy issues like divorce and abuse.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book, in my opinion, was AWESOME!! It was so vivid to the mind, made me feel like i was really there. It showed how a girl hides herself and still wants to long. I recommend this book greatly. Please read it. From beginning to the last, saddest sentence of the book, you will love it. Please read it , and check it out yourself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I couldn't put it down. I finished it in a day and I recomend it to anyone...
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was wonderful!!! I loved how it keep you guess until the very end. My friend wanted to read it as soon as she read the back and she finished it in less then a night and loved it! Now two other people want to read it. THE WATCHER IS A GREAT BOOK. A MUST READ!!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book it showed me what it's really like on the out side away from my preppy everyday world, i wish to read more books like this in the futer and become a writer myself, sorry my writing is so undescriptive and narrow. I'm writing quick.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I¿m not an author but the author of the book The Watcher, James Howe, knows what he¿s writing. I am a reader from the eighth grade who has read this book and let me tell you this is a great book to read. But there are some dislikes, such as the language, and I will make recommendations about this book. I like this book because there is a fairytale story in it. Also, it talks a lot about real life. When teenagers have problems in life, they should read this book. Oh! The beach I love the beach in this book. The metaphors and similes in this book are wonderful. There is one metaphor in this book that is my favorite. It said, ¿ He held her until her body was still until she felt herself falling lightly through the air, a single feather floating, drifting.¿ Now! Brace yourself because there are some parts in this book that I didn¿t like. The language as I said earlier is not very satisfactory. There is some cursing in this book. The book also has some abuse in it. There is also a lot of sadness in this book. I wouldn¿t recommend this book to anyone under the age of thirteen. This book is too mature for youngsters. Also they may not understand some parts of this book. I would definitely read this book if you ever have some free time or just nothing to do all day.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found a great book, and its called The Watcher written by James Howe. I read it before the 7th grade. I recommend it to kids 11 years and over because they deal with what is going on in the book more. Even a 40-year-old can read it. Don't judge a person on what they look like.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I¿m no book expert, but I know a good book when I see one. The Watcher is definitely a good book. This is a very dramatic book with many twists and turns that deals with everyday teen life. This book has the elements that make a good book. The only real problem with the book was that it had a lot of adult language that I don¿t think would appeal to many young reader¿s parents. Also,the slow paced nature of this book makes it boring at some times. Other than that this book is excellent and I recommend it to Teens/Adults. It deals with real life situations and not situations that are impossible. It also would make an excellent point to Adults about what teens are thinking nowadays. I think this is a good book and I really enjoyed it. I think this a definite must-read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reading Howe's book provokes varied emotional feelings within me. As a 47 year old middle school teacher, I respond to Howe's characters, each with his or her own flaws and goals. I relate to each character in some way, remembering my teen years of social adjustment. In addition, I recognize my students in Howe's characters, and I realize that their inner feelings, lives, and goals may be as complicated as those of Evan, Chris, or Margaret. The book also offers differing perspectives that allow the reader to try to understand each character's actions and feelings. I must say that my summer school students thoroughly enjoyed reading and experiencing the book. They even urge Howe to write a sequel...he left them wanting more, more, more! While the issues and some of the language require a mature reading, the realism speaks and reaches out to touch emotional chords of students and adults. Novels like this one give substance to Young Adult Fiction and should be included in middle school libraries and classrooms.