cover image The Girl in the Well Is Me

The Girl in the Well Is Me

Karen Rivers. Algonquin Young Readers, $16.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-61620-569-0

Rivers (Finding Ruby Starling) adheres to the advice that fiction writers “give their characters trouble” in this psychological horror story. Over a day and night trapped in a well, Kammie Summers, 11, recounts a horrific year. After her father’s incarceration for a heinous crime, a beloved relative dies of cancer, and a bus kills the family dog outside their New Jersey home (which the bank is repossessing). The Summers relocate to “Nowheresville,” Texas, exchanging a life of plasma-screen TVs and horseback-riding lessons for a trailer where Kammie shares a bedroom with a brother who doesn’t like her anymore. Asthmatic Kammie doles out the details of her downward mobility while the mean girls who tricked her into falling into the well look down and laugh. Rivers writes intense scenes of hallucinatory prose as the sky darkens, and oxygen deprivation causes Kammie to imagine dead goats beneath her feet, spiders attacking her legs, and the company of a French-speaking coyote. The stream-of-consciousness narration recalls Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” but claustrophobics will probably want to read something else. Ages 10–13. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Mar.)