Leander Watts, Author . Houghton $16 (169p) ISBN 978-0-618-26805-4

With a setting as grippingly oppressive as Watts's debut novel, Stonecutter , this 19th-century tale draws a convincing, rather grim portrait of an outcast living a "far piece from town" with her treasure-hunting father. Narrator Hannah Renner has always been shunned because of her "queerly mismatched" eyes ("Folks looked away when I opened my eyes, for the left one is as pale as nearly frozen milk, and the right one is a deep sea green"). Shortly after reaching adolescence, her father, deeply in debt, "sells" her to the uncouth Barrow brothers, who treat her like a slave. Hannah's only escape from drudgery comes at night, when she secretly meets a ghostly pale boy who calls himself Brother Boy. Tension mounts when Hannah learns that one of her "owners" plans to make her his bride. In desperation, she flees to the wilderness with Brother Boy. At the conclusion, several characters' motives seem at odds with their prior behavior, but the author successfully builds suspense while poetically evoking an aura of mystery around Hannah and Brother Boy. Ultimately the violence, lack of compassion and abandonment Hannah has experienced throughout her life makes a stronger impact than the joy she feels when freedom is within her reach. Ages 11-up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 10/27/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
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