TELL ME by Joan Bauer


Age Range: 10 - 15
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A 12-year-old girl sees something suspicious and determinedly pursues it.

Bauer’s story initially runs along a relationship-oriented slice-of-life track: A girl with a father having anger management issues is sent to stay with her grandmother and must cope with new people and challenges in a strange community. Then, about a quarter of the way through, bang, the novel abruptly changes directions. Anna McConnell, Bauer’s tense, emotionally overwrought yet capable protagonist, sees—or thinks she sees—something troubling: a young girl being controlled or even imprisoned by a couple in a van. One would think that kind of circumstance would speed up the action and make the material more suspenseful, but paradoxically, it has the opposite effect. Despite the fact that the information Anna has isn’t definitive enough for the local police to do much, the people around Anna, including an adult who also thought the group was suspicious, are beyond supportive. Readers hear that it’s good Anna was the one who saw it, because she “won’t let it go,” that she’s “helping so much,” is “a smart, discerning girl,” “amazing” and “fierce,” among other things. Nothing is left to the imagination: not Anna’s overparsed analysis of her on-the-nose feelings nor Bauer’s relentless hammering of the theme.

An intriguing story idea is marred by a surfeit of telling. (Fiction. 10-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-451-47033-1
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2014


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