Creating family where you can find it underscores this charming middle school novel in which a girl learns compassion despite family turmoil and tragedy.
Debut author Gale slips effortlessly into the mind of Annie Logan, a perceptive 12-year-old burdened with a deeply depressed mother, Brenda, and a clueless father who walks out shortly after Annie’s brother, Jake, is born. When Brenda sinks into a near-catatonic state, her mother moves in to care for the children—that is, until Annie’s father returns to claim the house for his new wife. Cast out, Annie, her brother, mother and grandmother relocate to the grandmother’s house in rural Connecticut, where Brenda holes up in the attic bedroom, Jake acts up at school, and Annie tries to fit in. Friends are hard to come by until she meets Phoebe Goodwin, another bookish girl who understands the loss of a parent. Annie finds new family in Phoebe and her father, but another discovery hits harder: dizziness and flashing lights that precede disturbing visions. When Annie foresees her mother’s death, her grandmother explains that she’s inherited her great-great-grandmother Gilda’s gift of foresight. That gift, however, doesn’t prepare Annie for the shock of learning Brenda died from suicide or for her own brush with death when she crashes her bike after fleeing in anger. Hospitalized with broken bones and head trauma, Annie has another vision, this time of a young girl with cancer. Determined to use her gift for good, she dons a wig and visits the girl, seeing her through her chemo treatment in the guise of “Goddess Gilda.” Buoyed by newfound confidence, Annie’s life improves—until her father reappears, demanding custody. Gale has crafted Annie with equal parts fire and empathy as well as a heart big enough to encompass friends, teachers and stray dogs; but whether Annie can find room for her father is another matter. With dialogue that’s clever but wholly natural, the book is populated with warmhearted characters who never cross the line into mawkishness or bathos, and her journey of the heart will be a joy for readers of any age.
A sweet, affecting coming-of-age story that shows how believing in yourself goes a long way in the quest to forgive.