ASK ANYBODY by Constance C. Greene


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Schuyler Sweet is anything but,"" begins Schulyer herself, and she adds, ""I'm halfway to twelve, a bad age in a woman."" Presumably she means she's eleven-and-a-half, not six, and presumably she's speaking for effect, as we don't witness any signs of a ""bad"" preadolescence. Schuyler lives in Maine with her two little brothers and her parents, who have recently divorced after a 15-year marriage but still occupy different wings of the same house. (In the end there is evidence that they will reconcile.) The action here occurs during the two weeks that Schuyler's mother is off photographing animals in Africa and Schuyler gets to know a new neighbor her age. ""If you want to see inside it'll cost you a nickel,"" says Nell the first time Schuyler and her friends go to call. On the way to school next morning, Nell shows off her green fingernails and announces that she doesn't wear pants unless she feels like it, lifting her skirt to prove it. Schuyler, fascinated, persuades her two friends to let Nell in on the yard sale the three are planning, and soon the knowing Nell has taken the project over. Schuyler feels flattered when Nell tells her, ""You're some tough cookie. We're a lot alike. . . . In this life you watch out for numero uno."" But a shaken Schuyler is vehemently denying the resemblance when Nell, showing off at the wheel of her ""Uncle's"" truck, accidentally runs over her own dog and then calmly drags the dog onto the road so the family will blame a hit-and-run stranger. Still, the girls go ahead with the sale. . . after which Nell's family, owing the landlord, vanish with the girls' $25.00 take and an unsold fur coat. ""She sounds like somebody you'll always remember, that's for sure,"" says Schuyler's mother on her return, and Nell is indeed a character to set any sixth grade on its heels. Greene stirs elements of Schuyler's own family situation into the story of Nell's impact on Schuyler with her reliably deft touch.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1983
Publisher: Viking