by Dee Yoder
The turbulent mid 1960’s is Annie Thomas’s era to conquer, but how can a twiggy, awkward girl find her place in a world that changes day by day? Her experiences are about to expand when she and her family move into a modern suburban neighborhood from a sleepy farm town. Right away, Annie understands being the new kid, and worse, moving into the neighborhood “haunted” house, sets her up for torment and teasing. It doesn’t help that she is a bit peculiar, a frail girl who hates bullies and doesn’t have the good sense to avoid riling them. Real life infiltrates Annie’s home and school as the Viet Nam War, civil unrest, childhood loss, moral confusion, and proliferating hormones invade her previously protected world. How will she cope with these revolutions and revelations among her friends and family, let alone with her own self?
Annie Thomas enters fourth grade in the fall of 1966. Her first encounter is with the neighborhood bully. Though she tries to overlook him, his goading and heckling send her blood pressure soaring. In the first few weeks, she endeavors to adjust to her contemporary school, complicated by a teacher who despairs of her and classmates who range from mature sophisticates to mindless bobble heads. A simple eye test reveals the mystery of Annie’s educational woes, but what can explain the terrifying peeper who lurks in the shadows outside Annie’s bedroom window? And nothing can clarify the dread of the far-away Viet Nam war. Annie learns the consequences of that war are closer than she thinks.
Annie’s older sister, Kinsey, and Kinsey’s southerner friend, Peach, are on a journey of their own: a boy- crazy trip that obliges Annie to witness feminine wiles which make her gag. Her humiliation is complete when the two teens conspire to drag Annie, kicking and screaming, into the reality of the lingerie department. After all, Annie is nearing that age…that age of burgeoning growth and the need for her first brassiere.
Annie also learns she has a capacity to purposely harm someone. Her sniping attitude toward her beleaguered best friend brings consequences and tear-filled sleepless nights as she wrestles with jealousy and envy. How does God fit into the picture? What does He expect from her as she matures? How does she cope with realizing she has inherited the sinful nature of Adam she had never before known existed in her character?
Annie’s coming-of-age story is wacky and sweet, naïvely hilarious and poignant, but, ultimately, it acquaints her with life finally happening to her. It illuminates the years when she develops more than a womanly body, but an attentive and awakening soul as well.