Thirteen-year-old Caleb's sister Anneliese died six years ago and nothing has been the same since. Except that Caleb watches the same episode of America's Funniest Home Videos at 7 pm every night, an episode he can never finish watching. And he constantly stares out his bedroom window at the dilapidated mansion across the road. Suffering from OCD and agoraphobia and having been home-schooled since his sister's death, Caleb obsesses about the mansion. But now something about it has changed. When Caleb starts getting notes signed by Emily Dickinson and realizes they are coming from the mansion, Caleb starts to wonder if he is going crazy. Is a voice talking to him from beyond the grave? And if so, whose is it, Emily's or Anneliese's?
Enter loner Iris Elliott and her trusty video camera. Iris sets out to get some footage of the mansion for a music video she is making. When she encounters Caleb, whom she has not seen since second grade, Iris decides to make a documentary about him instead. So, two unlikely youngsters become friends, and things start happening that force Caleb to overcome his fear of leaving the house and help him come to terms with the loss of his sister. Do you believe in magic? After reading this book, you just might.
This story is told alternately from Caleb's and Iris' points-of-view, a very effective story-telling device. The author has some lovely turns of phrase, e.g., "the truth fell like melancholy rain." And I loved this quote on books: "Surrounded by stacks of worn and cozy books, the voracious reader loved the safety of his upstairs hideaway. The Three Musketeers, Harry Potter, and a zillion other characters, all randomly piled in front of a space model filled bookshelf, were his only friends in a friendless world." My only complaint is the author's annoying use of expressions such as "the teen" and "the younger Reed" instead of simply "Caleb", and "parental unit" instead of "mom" or "dad". But, with a flawed hero, a kooky girl side-kick, a dead poet, and a satisfying ending, what's not to love?
I received this book for the purpose of providing an honest review.