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Totally Confidential

Totally Confidential

4.3 3
by Sally Warner

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Mary McQuinn Todd, better known as Quinney, gives the best advice in the whole world. In fact, she is so good at giving advice that she decides to become a professional listener for the summer. It's the perfect job. She makes money. She meets new people. She gets away from her wacky parents and her annoying twin brothers and their imaginary friend, Monty. And


Mary McQuinn Todd, better known as Quinney, gives the best advice in the whole world. In fact, she is so good at giving advice that she decides to become a professional listener for the summer. It's the perfect job. She makes money. She meets new people. She gets away from her wacky parents and her annoying twin brothers and their imaginary friend, Monty. And best of all, it's her own secret that no one knows about.

While Quinney loves giving advice to strangers, she's got problems of her own. Her two best friends, Brynn and Marguerite, are barely talking to, each other. Her pledge of client confidentiality may put Marguerite in danger. And Just how is she supposed to give relationship advice to Cree Scovall, a guy she has the biggest crush on? Will Quinney be able to give the right advice to everyone and still keep her cool? That, of course, is totally confidential!

Author Biography: Sally Warner is a writer and artist with many middle-grade novels to her credit, including Sort of Forever and Accidental Lily, both published by Knopf. She enjoys gardening, swimming, and spending time with her three cats, her 18-pound rabbit, her dachshund puppy, and her two sons. She lives in Altadena, California, and spends several months each year in a little town in the Adirondacks of upstate New York, not unlike Quinney's Lake Geneva.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Where do I fit in?" Warner's (Sort of Forever) earnest heroine asks herself, adding, "Maybe I'm like the invisible part of a machine that keeps everything else running smoothly." Bright, articulate and entirely likable, 12-year-old Quinney manages to keep this thoughtful novel running quite smoothly and briskly. Weary of her role as peacemaker--she is constantly refereeing her spirited five-year-old twin brothers, as well as her two squabbling best friends--Quinney decides that she may as well get paid for her efforts and decides to launch a summer job as a "Professional Listener." The ad she places in a local advertising flyer brings a handful of responses and, though things don't go exactly as Quinney had planned, all of her customers eventually benefit from her insightful suggestions. Warner neatly weaves together strands of Quinney's life with the circumstances of her advisees, only occasionally straining credibility in terms of the girl's level-headedness and perspicacity, the depth of which goes far beyond that of an average soon-to-be sixth grader. And the ending, in which Quinney overhears her mother saying that she plans to respond to the ad for the "listener," is a bit of a stretch. Those willing to look past the improbable premise will find this an otherwise tight and well-told story, full of empathy for kids' anxieties and concerns. Ages 8-12. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Children's Literature
Quinny Todd thinks she has found her niche in the world—she's a good listener. When she advertises her services in her local small town newspaper she finds herself inundated with people eager for a professional listener. There is Ms. Ryder who complains that husband Spikey isn't fun anymore, lonely little Toby who just wants a friend, and Sam who wants to impress his girlfriend. Perhaps her biggest challenge is how to get best friends Byrnn and Marguerite to mend their relationship. When Quinny plays listener to heart throb Cree Scovell, she learns a secret that could put Marguerite in danger. How can she juggle the need for client confidentiality with her desire to warn Marguerite? Quinny is not without her own problems. Annoying twin brothers and demanding (and at times self-centered) parents vie for her time, leaving her hurt and confused. While this novel has some merit, there is too much going on and it lacks substance. It is not credible that adults would go to a twelve-year-old for advice, even if she does have a wisdom that belies her age. Problems are too easily solved and characters, with the exception of Quinny and Toby, are one dimensional. The tone is light and breezy, and kids looking for an undemanding read and willing to wallow in preteen angst will no doubt find this acceptable. 2000, HarperCollins, $15.89 and $14.95. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-Quinney, 12, has a talent for listening to other people's problems, so she runs an ad in the local newspaper offering her services as a professional listener, charging $1.00 for 15 minutes. Much to her surprise, people do respond and thus begins the summer of her professional listening business. Her "customers" run the gamut from lonely hearts, frustrated wives, and friendless children to a certain Cree Scovell, 14, whom she secretly admires. At first the job seems effortless, but as her clientele increases, the issues brought to her begin to affect her personal life, especially when Cree unwittingly confides that Quinney's precocious friend Marguerite may be in over her head with the high school crowd. As if her work life weren't complicated enough, the young entrepreneur feels like she's taken for granted at home, and her two best friends no longer get along. By the end of the story, she has not only helped to solve some of her patrons' problems, but has also found someone to listen to hers. The characters are not developed deeply but children will empathize with Quinney's dilemmas. A light summer read with just enough tension to keep even reluctant readers involved.-Victoria Kidd, Gwinnett County Public Library, Lawrenceville, GA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
In Warner's (Accidental Lily, 1999, etc.) lighthearted read, a 12-year-old girl finds a clever way to earn some extra money while helping her and her friends deal with worrisome pre-teen issues. When her ad in the local paper for a "professional listener" starts to get responses, Mary McQuinn Todd, or Quinny, finds that her summer job is not as easy as she had thought. She soon finds herself with an ethical dilemma on her hands. Marguerite, one of her best friends, is veering toward trouble. Marguerite has always been the antithesis of Quinny, but now Marguerite seems to be growing up too fast. The tension reaches a boiling point when, through her listening job, Quinny learns that Marguerite may be in considerable danger. She finds a solution that not only saves Marguerite, but also allows Quinny to keep her promise of confidentiality. To further add strain to Quinny's life, she is becoming distant from those she loves. She feels like the fifth wheel in a family where her younger twin brothers form their own unit, and her parents, after 17 years of marriage, are still absolutely smitten with each other. The plot is both unique and appealing. Quinny and her friends are depicted as modern young teens with contemporary issues. The tone is not grim but bolstering and could influence readers to follow the example of using intellect, creativity, and discussion when faced with vexing situations. (Fiction. 8-12)

Product Details

HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.79(w) x 8.56(h) x 0.82(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"So, should I get a divorce, or what?" the round-faced woman asked Mary McQuinn Todd across the gleaming table. They were sitting in the rear room of the tiny Lake Geneva Public Library in upstate New York, surrounded by reference books. It was a hot and sticky summer afternoon, but the thick stone walls of the old building made it feel cool inside. Quinney scheduled all her listening appointments to start fifteen minutes before the library closed, which made it easier to stop each session promptly when the time was up.

Quinney stared at the woman in shock, her green eyes unblinking. She tried to look calm. She thought hard as she twiddled a strand of her reddish hair–which she always insisted was brown. "You do know I'm only twelve, don't you, Mrs. Ryder?" she asked.

"Ms.," the woman corrected Quinney.

"Oh, sorry," Quinney said, surprised. Not many women in Lake Geneva called themselves Ms.

"So you're twelve. What's your point?" the big woman asked sharply, shifting in her creaking chair. "You do give advice, don't you? You took my dollar fast enough."

Quinney watched Ms. Ryder's violet T-shirt rise and fall with the woman's indignant breaths. "Well, my ad says professional listener," she finally pointed out.

"Same thing," Ms. Ryder snapped.

"Giving advice would depend on the question," Quinney said. "I mean, on how easy the question was."

"Your ad just said 'No medical advice given,' period. This isn't medical, it'spersonal."

"It sure is," Quinney said, thinking of the woman's long, involved story.

Quinney Todd was famous among her friends and family for her calm demeanor and common sense. But she was too calm and too sensible, she sometimes felt.

For example, why was she always the one who had to patch things up when a squabble broke out between Brynn and Marguerite, her two best friends? And why did her parents count on her to handle disputes between her two little brothers and their invisible friend, Monty?

Still, that's the way things were–she was always the peacemaker. And so I might as well make it pay, she had thought.

Pay, as in money.

So Quinney decided to go into the listening business for the summer.

The idea had come to her a month earlier when one morning at breakfast her dad said, "Hey, listen to this!" and started to read aloud from the newspaper. Some lady who'd just gotten married had written in to an advice column, complaining that her new husband didn't like it when her three big hound dogs slept on the bed.

"People are just amazing," Quinney's mother said, laughing and shaking her head.

Quinney chewed on an English muffin while she listened to her father read the new bride's letter, and she thought, What advice would I give her?

"I think she should take her husband to the pound," Teddy declared, pink with rage. Teddy was five years old and a fierce animal lover.

"Yeah," Mack chimed in, loyal to his twin. Both boys then shoveled cereal into their mouths, invigorated by their anger.

"What about you, Quinney?" her father had asked. "What do you think the woman should do?"

Quinney swallowed her bite of muffin and wiped her mouth with a napkin. "I think she should make the dogs sleep in the hall. And she should shut the bedroom door and apologize to her husband," she finally said.

"Boo," Teddy muttered. "I never say I'm sorry!" Mack gazed at him in admiration.

"We know, Teddy-bear," Mr. Todd said, laughing. "But the columnist said exactly the same thing that Quinney did."

"She did?" Quinney and Teddy said together.

Quinney took a sip of orange juice and waited for things to quiet down. "Dad," she asked, after the twins had tumbled out of the kitchen and into the backyard, "do people really get paid for answering questions like that?"

"Sure–psychologists do," her father said. "They make a fortune, too." He sighed and took off his glasses, polishing the butter-smudged lenses absentmindedly on an edge of the red-and-white plaid tablecloth. Norman Todd taught high school math, and he did not make a fortune.

"Huh," Quinney said thoughtfully.

"They don't even need to answer any questions, not really," Mr. Todd said, shaking his head. "Sometimes I think that all people really want is for someone just to listen for a change."

"Huh," Quinney had repeated, her green eyes shining.

It was so obvious, really!

In fact, Quinney couldn't believe she hadn't thought of it before. She would put an ad in the local Save-a-Cent. Readers' ads were free, after all; reply boxes were even provided free of charge. The weekly publication made its money from business advertising.

Nearly everyone in the three-town rural area of Lake Geneva, Marathon, and Rocky Creek read Save-a-Cent. Her ad had run the following week, appearing between Lose Weight Fast! and For Sale: Double-Wide Trailer:


Will listen to what you have to say. $1 for 15 minutes. No medical advice given. Totally confidential! Write c/o Box 112, Save-a-Cent, 112 Main Street, Lake Geneva, New York

Just listening. It sounded so easy.

But now, two weeks into it, Quinney's summer job was proving to be more challenging than she'd expected when she'd first mailed in her ad. Because even though people said that all they wanted was someone to listen to them, they really wanted more.

They wanted answers.

Quinney kind of wished she could tell her dad what she'd discovered, but her summer job was a secret. She knew that her parents would have tried to talk her out of doing something so crazy if they'd known about it in advance.

Or worse, they'd have teased her. Two against one.

And Quinney hated being teased.

Even Brynn and Marguerite didn't know about Quinney's secret summer job. But Quinney couldn't think about them just now. She had work to do.

Totally Confidential. Copyright © by Sally Warner. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Totally Confidential 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a good book but it was quite shallow. Recommended to anyone who likes lighthearted reads but for someone who would rather be sucked into the book it would be quite not what they would want.
Guest More than 1 year ago
theres alot of great books out in the world but I think this one is in the top three. I really love this book because of Sally Warners a great author!I love the characters in this book the main characters are Quinney,Margarite,Brynn.This book defently devserves a solid 5 stars. This one of the best Sally Warner books yet!It really pulls you in it makes you feel like your there. MUST READ GREAT BOOK!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this book is really good and it's really keeping my intrest. If you are picking a book from this great author Sally Warner pick Totally Confidential I'm sure it will keep your intrest to!!!!