Scary things are happening, but Maggie can protect everyone if she gets her ritualized recitations right.
“It’s the night we’re going to get murdered so we’re sleeping on the living room floor,” she opens her narration. There’s just been a murder nearby, and the suspect is uncaptured. Mom and Dad aren’t worried, but anxiety and dread are big inside Maggie. Vulnerable baby bunnies next door are being raised for a restaurant; a classmate’s expecting a gun for his 12th birthday and seems likely to use it; and the murderer could be close by. Lane’s prose is quietly powerful, plain yet poetic: “my stomach doesn’t want me to go outside.” Tormented with intrusive visualizations of violence, Maggie holds her breath for counts of 60 and always recites her not-quite-prayer pleas twice each: “Please don’t let Gordy or the murderer kill us or anyone, please don’t let Gordy or the murderer kill us or anyone.” Things are scary, though Maggie also clearly has OCD or a like illness (never named); readers feel her anxiety and burden through her compulsory rituals, which will “keep us all from dying and keep the baby bunnies safe.” Maggie and her environment are presumably white; nonwhite allusions like “teepee eyebrows” are used as flavor, while two evidently black classmates are used as a historical desegregation reference, much to Maggie's discomfort.
A tender, sober portrait of a middle schooler with OCD. (Fiction. 9-13)