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The Girl in the Well Is Me

Review

The Girl in the Well Is Me

Karen River’s THE GIRL IN THE WELL IS ME is a thoughtfully told tale about 11-year-old Kammie, who finds herself trapped inside a well after an “initiation” into a tightly-knit group of popular girls from her new school. Nearly the entire novel is told while Kammie is trapped in the well --- she spends this time reflecting on her family, “friends” and some imaginary animal companions. The reader learns that Kammie’s once seemingly-perfect family has lost nearly everything after her father’s prison sentence. She and her family were forced to leave their home and all of their possessions in New Jersey behind in order to escape to the Middle-of-Nowhere, Texas. Rivers manages to add suspense to learning about Kammie’s past through her reflections, and I appreciated the fact that although I did not get to meet her family members until much later in the story, I felt as though I were already familiar with their personalities, histories and quirks.

"Kammie is intensely smart and thoughtful; her stories go from being laugh-out-loud funny to tear-jerkingly sad. Rivers achieved a great balance between Kammie’s reflections and her being present in the well."

Kammie’s reminiscing on her life is an interesting and successful balance of poignant and funny. Kammie is intensely smart and thoughtful; her stories go from being laugh-out-loud funny to tear-jerkingly sad. Rivers achieved a great balance between Kammie’s reflections and her being present in the well. The first-person perspective allows the reader to experience Kammie’s fear along with her. The most gripping aspect of this was Kammie’s hallucinations as she unknowingly began to lose consciousness due to lack of oxygen. Kammie’s stream-of-consciousness trains of thought are well done, believable and managed to bring me right into the story. I especially appreciated Kammie’s imaginary "friends" --- a herd of zombie goats and a silver coyote. These creatures seemed to accurately reflect how an 11-year-old would cope with a terrifying and traumatic situation. They are a whimsical juxtaposition to Kammie’s often intense and grisly descriptions of her own injuries.

THE GIRL IN THE WELL IS ME finishes with a great message: be yourself. Kammie realizes that after nearly dying by trying to fit in with a group of girls who want her to change nearly everything about herself from her hairstyle to her clothes to her perfume that she is much better off pursuing her own interests and following her own path. It is shocking to see how these “popular” girls --- all of whom have names ending in -andy --- react to Kammie’s dangerous situation: one of them even eats dinner with her family before telling a parent where Kammie is. This story provides a great range of emotions mixed with suspense and intrigue. Kammie’s voice sometimes seems a bit too adult for an 11-year-old, but after learning the details of her past I can see why. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys realistic fiction with an uplifting message.

Reviewed by Katherine Szabo on March 15, 2016

The Girl in the Well Is Me
by Karen Rivers