A series of social missteps convinces eighth-grader Elise that remaining silent is preferable to saying the wrong thing and looking foolish.
The transition from home schooling to public school proves more difficult that Elise imagined. Classroom politics, rival friendships, and social media are minefields. And whether it is Bernard Billows’ greasy hair and milky smell or Elise’s own Armenian unibrow, Elise decides that the best way to navigate Green Pasture Middle School is to disappear. Her plan backfires as she manages to alienate her old friend, Mel, and frustrate Conn, a possible ally, leaving her more isolated than ever. When Elise discovers her family’s dark secret, which explains her mother’s neglect and her isolated childhood, she turns inward, falling into hallucinations and fantasy. Elise’s social isolation and pain are realistically portrayed, and her determination to stay silent even when she is accused of stealing and is threatened by Conn’s older brother, Dónal, underscores her distress (even as it may also frustrate readers). Other elements are less-successful. The persistent appearance of a raven that alternately comforts and disturbs Elise hints at an underlying magic that is insufficiently explored. The portrayal of home-schoolers borders on cliché, and the resolution of Elise’s mother’s extreme negligence is far too easy. The book adheres to the white default.
Ambitious but not wholly successful. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)