Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Kindl follows her magical Owl in Love with a novel featuring an equally gripping premise. A metaphorical study of an agoraphobic child, it opens with a series of emotional, surreal images-but eventually degenerates into trite teen romance and platitudes about sheltering the "frightened child-self." Living with her sensitive mother and boisterous sisters in an enormous old house, Anna imitates her absentee father by fading out of her family's life. Painfully shy, "with a face like a glass of water," she is so small and transparent her sisters sit on her by mistake. When her mother threatens to send her to school, Anna-who has preternatural skills with power tools and sewing needles-retreats permanently into the walls of the house, where she builds a maze of secret, undersize rooms and passages. Next met in adolescence, she develops a crush on a visitor to the house and exchanges letters with him without revealing her identity (he thinks he's corresponding with her beautiful older sister). The action culminates with Anna attending a Halloween party, where she incurs her older sister's wrath and triggers a chase scene that lacks the energy to be either slapstick or dramatic. In the process, Anna realizes she is attractive and decides to reenter the world. The resonant originality of the first few chapters is undermined by the conventional conflicts and resolution. Ages 10-14. (Mar.)
VOYA - Mary Arnold
Like Owl in Love, this is an unusual coming-of-age, first-person narrative. The opening chapters set the fantastic tone and surreal style as Anna describes her descent into agoraphobia and metaphorical emergence from the cocoon of childhood, armed with a new adolescent self-esteem. But the impact of this essential theme of young adult fiction is muted by the somewhat disjointed narrative and distance in what are potentially emotional scenes. And, unlike with Owl, we miss the wry humor and concrete characterizations that ground the flights of fancy with a touch of contemporary teen reality. Anna introduces herself to the reader as a shy girl-so shy that she is nearly invisible. Finding it impossible to contemplate attending school with her sisters, she retreats into a hiding place she creates within the old, rambling house. There she disappears, not only from the world outside, but seemingly from the minds and hearts of her mother and sisters as well. She equates herself with her father, who also disappeared (from the Library of Congress stacks!) and from whom she inherits her uncanny ability to make things with tools and sewing material. And so she exists in a parallel world until touched by her first adolescent crush on one of the many boys swarming around her older sister. Here the story really begins to careen out of control as the exchange of secret love letters through a crack in the wall culminates in Anna's rediscovery by her family, news of her mother's impending marriage, a wild Halloween party, sibling rivalry, and an almost slapstick chase through the house. The would-be high drama of this reunion and self-discovery ends with an anticlimax as Anna's mother announces that they must check to see if there are clean sheets, as it is time for everyone to retire for the night. Only the more sophisticated reader will persevere through the "oh, come on" middle of the story without asking over and over how Anna so effectively disappears from her family's consciousness; if her matter-of-fact acceptance of her isolation does not confuse, it will probably disturb. The pat ending belies the dramatic and original premise. VOYA Codes: 3Q 2P M J (Readable without serious defects, For the YA with a special interest in the subject, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
School Library Journal
(Gr 5-8) Exceedingly shy Anna, 14, narrates her life story. When she is seven, her mother tells her she must go to school. The school psychologist arrives at the run-down family mansion only to mistake Anna for a doll and somehow ends up with her in her purse. This is enough to impel the child to hide in a secret room she has readied overnight by putting up a false wall in the family library. Over the years, she adds new rooms, passages, a kitchen, peepholes; and no one notices. Although she continues repairing, baking, and sewing as her family requests, gradually her mother and older sister, Andrea, choose to forget her. When one of Andrea's ignored admirers sticks a love letter addressed to "A" into a crack in the stairs, Anna answers it, thus setting in motion a chain of events that lead to her discovery. This story cannot make up its mind what it wants to be. It could be fantasy. Rooms diminish and disappear. No one pays much attention to this engineering prodigy scurrying through the walls for seven years. Yet Kindl's messy ruminations on puberty drag the story kicking and screaming back to realism. At any rate, it is a disturbing novel. Anna's mother's casual acceptance of her daughter's self-imposed isolation will be unsettling to many children, and readers are not privy to the woman's explanation of the sudden appearance of a third daughter to her soon-to-be husband. The author's shrill Victorian trill pushes the story in a gothic direction. For a more palatable offering on shyness delivered with a hint of Victorian flavor, try Jean Ure's The Children Next Door (Scholastic, 1996).Cindy Darling Codell, Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY
Kindl (Owl in Love, 1993), who brought readers an unforgettable, offbeat protagonist in her first novel, does it again in this not-quite fantasy.
Anna is such a shy child that she is almost invisible"I'm small and thin, with a face like a glass of water. And I like to hide." Her mother and sisters find it hard to see or hear her, and her father "faded out" of their lives years before. The concept of school, other children, the outside (asking her to leave the house was "like asking me to strip off my very skin"), and a terrifying (and hilarious) visit from the school psychologist send Anna into hiding for good, in the nooks and crannies of the family's rambling Victorian home. Anna, good with tools and her hands, literally walls herself off, peering at her family through peepholes and coming out only when they are all asleep. She hides for years, until her mother and sisters almost forget she really exists. Then comes puberty, and with it, all the inchoate longings of adolescence. Teenage agony is full-blown: the complete self-involvement; the terror of rejection; the recoiling at physical changes (she is dumbfounded when she develops breasts); the certain knowledge that no one has ever felt the way she feels. How Anna finds herself and her family again is a tour de force of extraordinary power and wicked humor. Kindl bends the prism of loss and isolation until the clear colors of self shine forth, for Anna, and for enthralled readers.
From the Publisher
"How Anna finds herself and her family again is a tour de force of extraordinary power and wicked humor. Kindl bends the prism of loss and isolation until the clear colors of self shine forth, for Anna, and for the enthralled readers." Kirkus Reviews with Pointers