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How to disappear completely and never be found

by Sara Nickerson


Book Review

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Publishers Weekly :

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First-time novelist Nickerson follows an arresting first paragraph with an ambitious but somewhat overengineered tale. Margaret's family has unraveled in the four years since her father's death her mother barely speaks, Margaret is such an outcast at school that she eats lunch in a bathroom stall and her bouncy little sister is obsessed with jigsaw puzzles. When her mother inexplicably drives them to an island and sets up a For Sale sign outside a derelict mansion, Margaret finds a package inside containing a strange comic book, her father's swimming medal and a rusty key. Why did her father drown if he was a champion swimmer? Who is the comic's author, Ratt, and what about the Drowning Ghost who features so largely in his book? Eventually, at the urging of her sole friend, Tina Louise (who all but disappears in the book's second half), Margaret runs away to the island to find answers. Together with Boyd, a lonely boy who lives next door to the mansion and is a Ratt fan (the comics appear regularly on the doorstep of the island's singularly odd library), she solves the multiple mysteries in a somewhat melodramatic climax. Juggling comic strip panels, multiple viewpoints and arch "editor's notes," Nickerson sets up a complex framework that at times works to the story's advantage by adding tension, but often simply overwhelms it. If the structure is unwieldy, the prose stays compelling throughout the sign of a writer with promise. Ages 10-up.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Book Review

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School Library Journal :

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Gr 6-10-Margaret Clairmont, 12, can barely remember her father or the last time her mother woke up long enough to take them somewhere beyond the grocery store and Laundromat. Their sudden unexpected visit to place a "For Sale by Owner" sign on a dilapidated mansion on an island in the Pacific Northwest is the basis of this interesting mystery. The resolution of a long-standing family tragedy is slowly pieced together in this novel that bears a strong resemblance to Margaret's little sister Sophie's favorite distraction, "THE HARDEST JIGSAW EVER MADE." Parts of the story are Margaret's, describing in a relatively straightforward fashion her secret return to the island to find an explanation for the comic she found in an unopened package addressed to her mother. Parts belong to Boyd, the boy who lives next door to the mansion physically but dwells emotionally within the comics that appear in the island's odd library. Underneath their story is that of an earlier unhappy teenager, who found himself growing physically repulsive as he matured. He became more and more reclusive, even ratlike, and grew to be a man who could never rid himself of his guilt over the death of his idolized older brother. Most of the story is told in prose, in first or third person, but some parts are revealed in the graphic form of the comic books. Even the narrator twists and turns, as the first-person storyteller's identity changes. The satisfying ending will reward readers who have made their way through this tangled tale, but all but the best will probably find themselves considerably confused along the way.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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