From School Library Journal
Grade 4–6—In this evocative debut novel, 12-year-old Lily Mathis has attempted to remain invisible to the 117 residents of Olena, IL, since the death of her brother. For two years she has not spoken a word to anyone, not to her dad, or the kids at school, or the general-store owner Fern, who keeps talking to her even though the child doesn't respond. Lily has been swallowing a secret that has burdened her ever since Pete died, but it's hard, especially after Fern's grandniece moves to town. Tinny has her own secret: she tells lies and steals from Fern, and she catches Lily up in a dangerous intrigue that threatens to harm them both unless Lily can break her silence and speak the truth. The story unfolds in alternating chapters of past and present, slowly unveiling Lily's adoration for her big brother who loved old cars and gangster movies and running through the cornfields at night, leading inevitably to the present-day climax that brings resolution to both girls' problems. Throughout the well-developed plot is Olena, where the drone of the cicadas and the rustling of the cornstalks mingle with the daily conversation of the people. The story is believable because not much happens in this small town, so when tragedy strikes, or strangers appear, or a child goes missing, it is the town that feels it, not just the individuals involved. One part memory, one part mystery, and a generous dose of atmosphere make this the kind of satisfying read that Summer Reading is all about.—Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Lily, who hasn’t spoken since the accident that killed her brother two years ago, does nothing to contradict the general notion that she is now brain damaged. She finds comfort in the openhearted affection of an elderly neighbor and in reading Nancy Drew mysteries on the sly. After Tinny, a troubled new girl in their small Illinois town, discovers that Lily is hiding the fact that she can still read, Lily finds it increasingly difficult to maintain the facade that has been her emotional shield. A present-tense account of scenes leading up to her brother’s death, inserted in italics at intervals within the primary first-person narrative, heightens the level of intensity as the main story progresses and the parallel narrative approaches that shrouded but clearly traumatic event. Written with clarity and fine attention to craft, this accessible novel reveals the secret in Lily’s past just as she reaches out to solve the mystery that shadows Tinny’s present. Grades 4-6. --Carolyn Phelan