This sure-handed first novel features an elusive, remote character in a harsh situation--and makes her disordered state of mind remarkably vivid, her actual situation just as real. Orphaned, kicked out of nine schools for ""poor adjustment,"" twelve-year-old Maggie Turner arrives with apprehension at the home of two unwelcoming great-aunts. Immediately she is in trouble at this new home and friendless again in her new class. Maggie, as Cassedy shows gradually and by implication, relates better to objects than to people; she can amuse herself poking through her aunts' dresser drawers, spinning out rich fantasies to five imaginary Backwoods Girls about pink curlers, a necklace, a bunch of keys, with no expectation of the anger that must invariably greet the trail of debris and broken items she leaves behind. It's wholly believable, then, that, perceiving adults as hostile and incomprehensible, she begins to hear voices and finds their source in two dusty mechanical dolls in a closed-off room. Ultimately it is these dolls that, participating in her private conversations, provide some connection for her and allow her to learn to care, so that when the aunts inevitably send her away, she can finally open up to a true family. This is a demanding, skillfully constructed story of a deeply troubled inner life, with no when or where, that pushes at the boundaries of juvenile fiction. Just who it will be for, though, is in some question.