Bad Dreams

Anne Fine, Author Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers $15.95 (144p) ISBN 978-0-385-32757-2

Although not as ambitious as some of Fine's previous novels (The Tulip Touch; Alias Madame Doubtfire), this thriller featuring a preteen with supernatural powers will hook readers until the last page. Melanie, the deliberately unsympathetic narrator, has no friends--and doesn't mind, because she prefers reading to being with people. Her teacher assigns her to help out a new girl, Imogen, and Melanie quickly grows interested in Imogen's odd behavior. Whenever Imogen touches the cover of a book, she seems to know what will happen to the characters inside, even to feel their emotions. She can also predict people's futures by holding their photographs. Witnessing Imogen's torment in foreseeing events and suffering along with fictional characters, Melanie is convinced that Imogen's magical powers are a curse, not a blessing. Despite Imogen's protestations, Melanie is determined to do whatever it takes to rid Imogen of her ""gifts."" Experienced readers will know early on that Imogen's magic is linked to the odd necklace she always wears, but other elements here remain vague. Neither Imogen nor her mother, who horrifies Melanie with her fixation on magic, is well fleshed out, and the significance of the necklace challenges some of the narrative logic (e.g., Why is Imogen oblivious to its effect?). But Fine's storytelling dwarfs such flaws. Drawing readers into the complexities of Melanie's decision, she produces a subtle and absorbing tale. Ages 10-up. (June)