At the bookstore how could I not pick up this book? Right on the cover are the words “Uh oh…” The Kammie’s-eye-view image tells me that this is a first person story about the awkward, painful situation explained in the title. Kammie has fallen into a well. No joke. Three suspiciously faceless girls silhouetted against the evening sky must have had something to do with it. The little creepie crawlies suggest lots of juicy details are ahead. And soon it will be dark. Those girls will get help for Kammie, right?
How did this happen? All eleven-year-old Kammie wanted was to reinvent herself at her new school by joining the popular Girls’ club. The Girls said she had to pass some tests if she wanted to be a member. The first test didn’t seem mean right away, so she agreed to the second one. Now look where that got her.
She’s wedged in, suspended above dank air, with nothing but her thoughts. The author, Karen Rivers, is a master at showing the beautiful brain of this sixth grader who has been traumatized by life yet has a heart that glows. As the hours pass and hunger and lack of air take over Kammie sees and hears things that may or may not be real: a French-speaking coyote and goats that might be zombies. She thinks about her brother who used to be fun, her used-to-be best friend, and her beloved Grandma who always had smart things to say but is now unfortunately dead. Leaking into the story are the awful details of why her family had to move from New Jersey to Nowheresville, Texas. Exactly why Kammie so badly needs to be someone new.
Here’s a review from Katherine Applegate, Newbury Medal-winning author of The One and Only Ivan: “I dare you to pick up this riveting novel without reading straight through to its heart-stopping conclusion.” Kirkus gave it a starred review. So don’t just take my word for it.
Earlier I read Marianne Knowles’ post …and then I read The 100. She says yes, there are a million science mistakes, but, the author knows how to plot so you read zoomingly, on. The Girl in the Well is Me is equally un-put-downable because Kammie is so relatable and the big question is suspended tantalizingly in air: will she survive or not? Spoiler alert- the resolution is gorgeous.
This middle grade novel published in 2016 (first paperback, Feb. 2017) by Algonquin Young Readers, is rated for ages ten and up. You should read it too. And there’s more: Before We Go Extinct was also released in 2016 and seven more of Karen Rivers’ middle grade and young adult novels are under contract for 2018 and beyond. Jennifer Laughran is her inimitable agent at Andrea Brown. Karen Rivers knows how to put a story together. Read it if you don’t believe me.