Both Emily's discovery of a dead man at the beach and her habit of collecting pencils, grouping them into families according to brand name (Dixon, Ticonderoga) and making up stories about them will catch your interest right off. And when Emily, between screams, absently picks up a shiny gold pencil from near the body, the two threads come together in the form of three sinister teenagers determined to retrieve this bit of evidence. The hippy trio makes things really scary for Emily, and it's truly maddening when her older brother Lawrence refuses to believe that she's in danger. However Emily's outrageous (her word) efforts to get Lawrence's attention (both parents are out of town and she's starving for it, besides being understandably jumpy) do in time become as wearing as he says, and the older kids when we get to know them prove more tiresome yet, and probably not guilty of murder after all. The body in fact is just forgotten in the final brother-sister reconciliation and in Emily's settling down at last to write this story. Still, there's nothing mechanical about the pencil families, even if they are in need of sharpening by the end.