Middle School Monday – The Girl in the Well is Me by Karen Rivers
I love a good unreliable narrator, and that’s exactly what Rivers gives us in this unusual and satisfying story. Bruised, bleeding and trapped, we begin Kammie’s story as she is already stuck in the well, a victim of three ‘mean girls’ from her new school. Kammie has recently moved from the northeast to a small town in Texas after her family experiences a significant change in fortunes. She’s just looking for somewhere to belong when Mandy, Sandy and Kandy invite her to join their ‘club’ if she passes an initiation which includes allowing them to restyle (AKA ruin) her hair. As another part of the initiation, they require her to stand on top of an old well cover and dance, when everything goes horribly wrong.
At first the three other girls think Kammie’s predicament is funny, even laughing and joking about it. As the afternoon wears on, they realize they need to get home for dinner and they abandon Kammie. At first they are too afraid to tell their parents what happened. When they do, their parents dismiss their (rather weak) efforts. It’s only when Kammie turns up missing that they begin to realize the truth.
We spend the vast majority of the story in the well with Kammie as she goes over the events of the past year. She gradually begins to hallucinate as she loses oxygen, and she believes that she is in the well with zombie goats and a coyote who speaks French.
To be honest, I thought the novel had a somewhat slow start, but I am generally not interested in your typical mean girl narrative. The novel quickly picks up pace, though, as Kammie reveals parts of her past that further illuminate her family’s current circumstances and why she says her parents’ “souls are worse than raisins, they are tiny lumps of coal, squashed so hard that maybe they’re turning into diamonds, sharp and glittery.”
This is a fascinatingly well told story that strongly reminded me of Libba Bray’s Going Bovine, but with a completely believable middle grade flavor. I highly recommend it for collections serving 4th through 7th grade students.
Filed under: Middle School Monday
About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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