"This strange tale manages to creep under your skin, and to stay there for some time." ?People
"Anna Cayne had moved here in August, just before our sophomore year in high school, but by February she had, one by one, killed everyone in town."
Anna--who prefers to be called Anastasia--is a slightly spooky and complicated high school girl with a penchant for riddles, Houdini tricks, and ghost stories. She spends much of her time writing obituaries for every living person in town. She is unlike anyone the narrator has ever known, and they make an unlikely, though happy, pair.
Then a week before Valentine's Day, Anna disappears, leaving behind only a dress placed neatly near a hole in the frozen river, and a string of unanswered questions. Desperate to find her, or at least to comprehend what happened and why, the narrator begins to reconstruct the past five months. And soon the fragments of curious events, intimate conversations, secrets, and peculiar letters (and the anonymous messages that continue to arrive) coalesce into haunting and surprising revelations that may implicate friends, relatives, and even Anna herself.
It turns out that snow is "actually very complicated," and so is Galloway's quirky, engrossing debut. In a small town near a river not far from a city, the narrator, an unnamed high school sophomore, encounters new Goth arrival, Anna Cayne. Holden Caulfield meets the Blair Witch, perhaps-but our narrator is more sympathetic and Anna more fascinating than their counterparts. The narrator is unsure why anyone would pursue him ("I'm bland. I'm milk. Worse, I'm water"), but pursue him Anna does, charming him with intriguing postcards, reading recommendations and long walks by the river. He's soon completely, hopelessly in love. But halfway through the story Anna disappears, leaving the narrator and the reader feeling lost and betrayed. The book becomes a search for Anna, complete with ciphers, codes, sightings and buried maps. Does affable art teacher Mr. Devon have something to do with her disappearance? Who was really driving the night fellow student Bryce Druitt slammed his car into the side of the bridge? Galloway makes plain from the beginning that everything in the book might be a clue, and that it's up to the narrator and the reader to solve the mystery for themselves. This can be great fun or lead to great frustration, depending on one's tastes, but there's no doubt that this rich, complex puzzle is the work of a talented author. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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March 06, 2006
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