The Watcher, James Howe

Synopsis: This book is told in third-person limited, focusing on three different characters (maybe four).

Margaret  is a girl who sits on the beach writing in her journal. She watches a family of four and wishes she could be a part of their group.

Chris is the lifeguard dealing with demons. Chris’s brother drowned before Chris was born. His father is filled with regret because he didn’t get to him in time. He’s trying to fill a void that can never be filled.

Evan is Margaret’s age. He’s the one that Margaret’s been watching, but his family is not as perfect as she thinks. His sister Callie had cancer, and since then, his parents are struggling in their relationship. Callie’s convinced that a divorce is around the corner.

Margaret comes into Evan’s beach home while the family is away. She didn’t break in, but she was envisioning being one of them. She steals a family picture, and takes it home and adds herself to the collage. Evan realizes that stuff has been stolen, and he wanted Chris’s advice on how to confront who he thought did it. He passes by Margaret’s house and sees her getting drowned in the kitchen sink by her father. He gets Chris to help. She’s finally free from the beast.

Bookworm’s Commentary:

  • I realize that my summary made it sound straight-forward. It’s not at all. It flips between who they’re focusing on, they have her journal entries (which is a fantasy about escaping a beast), and it’s kind of complex. It may be the most intense/complex YA novel I’ve reviewed for the blog yet.
  • Callie calls Margaret (because they don’t interact until the final scene) Harriet the Spy since she’s always looking at everyone. Margaret thinks of herself as invisible, no one will notice her. Evan thinks she sits there judging everyone. Evan’s mom responds that whatever she’s doing, she doesn’t think she’s better than anyone.
  • Evan & his mom go on a walk when she notices he’s feeling tense about the parents’ relationship. She’s collecting cracked shells, and I love this conversation…
    “I want it because it’s not perfect, but still beautiful…. We all start out thinking that there is such a thing as perfection and there’s something wrong with us if we settle for less…. And even when we’re grown up, we can’t quite shake the idea that perfection is something we’re, I don’t know,  entitled to, somehow.
    “The point is that something I thought was perfect has been broken, and I’m having to find the beauty in what is there instead of what I thought was there. Like this shell. I can spend all my time wishing it were perfect… or I can see that it’s beautiful just the way it is.”
  • Profound, right? The point of the conversation was they weren’t divorcing. It developed into she saw the girl on the beach as a broken shell.  I didn’t quote the entire thing, although I was tempted.
  • Chris talks to Margaret first, when he’s about to go home sick. Her eyes are described as screaming, on fire, wanting to get out.  Wow.
  • The dad did the  “I punish you because I love you,” bit. Her mom seems to be in a stupor most of the day. Their house is known for loud music.

Class Stuff:
Grades:  7th and up.
According to the teacher that traded this at the used book store, its AR level is 4.8.  (I don’t know what that means, I’ve never worked with AR).  Simply due to subject matter and complex writing style, I’ll go with 12 and up, as Amazon says.
Grade: A Once I got into it, I read it quickly. Howe wrote about a tough subject and tackled it beautifully and sensitively. I read it yesterday and I’m still shell-shocked by it. Very good.

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7 Comments

Filed under Middle school (6-8), Realistic, Scary

7 responses to “The Watcher, James Howe

  1. Pingback: The Misfits, James Howe | Class Bookworm

  2. Bob

    It was a good novel with a predictable novel (if you read between the lines of the fairytales) Howe did a good job and I am happy to see at least one review (it is not popular, shockingly) on this incredible novel.

    • I can see the predictability, but in a way, there aren’t many books that aren’t predictable. I guess that’s what happens when you read a lot of YA/children’s lit, especially those that have fairy tale elements.
      I’ll be honest, I kind of picked Watcher up by chance at a used bookstore and hadn’t heard of it until then (but, then again, I wasn’t even familiar with Bunnicula at the time). I’m glad I did and am also surprised I’m not one of many reviews. Thanks, Bob, for stopping by.

  3. Ella

    callie didnt have cancer, they had a large cyst in her mouth that could have possibly been cancer but then wasnt

    • Whereas I read most of the books I review more than once, I only read this one time. I suppose I should have said she had a “cancer scare.” Thanks for the info.

  4. kali

    This book has a REALLY REALLY creepy name but it is a really AMAZING book

  5. Luisa Benson

    I’m going to use Styx song “Grand Illusion” to help introduce this piece to my students next year. There is an allusion to Yeats’s “Second Coming” as well as The Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and Evan ironically believes Holden Caulfield is a phony! These little asides all contribute to the idea that we don’t really know each other and might not even know ourselves, but we make assumptions. We create fantasies rather than live in reality. The ending, the one and only time Margaret speaks, shows that communication and connecting with others in reality will free us from our not-so-secret demons–and we’ve all got demons!

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