THICKER THAN WATER by Penelope Farmer


Age Range: 10 - 15
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 In a subtle exploration of loss, grief, and family ties, Farmer (Charlotte Sometimes, 1969, etc.) incorporates an uneasy ghost yearning for decent burial into an orphaned boy's difficulties adapting to a new home. Becky learns of her mother's twin sister only as Megan is dying of an overdose, leaving a son, Will, Becky's age--a slim, dark boy who has lived in foster care since being abused by one of Megan's boyfriends, and who's never known a father. After coming from London to Becky's family in Derbyshire, Will hears urgent pleas in the night: ``Help me!'' The cries are audible to no one else, though the whole family is troubled by other manifestations--mysterious vandalism, unlocked doors, a Christmas tree that withers overnight. In alternating narratives, Will and Becky reveal a mutual dislike gradually transformed into familial amity seasoned with comfortable bickering; meanwhile, they deduce that the ghost was a laborer- -like Will a neglected child--trapped in a nearby mine. Driven by his own troubled past and the ghost's demands, blamed for his moody unpredictability as well as the ghost's misdeeds, Will decides on a desperately perilous way to free them both. Deftly individualizing even her minor players, Farmer crafts the family dynamics--the competitive twins, the newly acquainted cousins, the contrasting relationships between parents and children--with leisurely care, building toward a splendidly dramatic denouement. Unusually rich and involving. (Fiction. 10-15)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1993
ISBN: 1-56402-178-5
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Candlewick
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1993


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