Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Annie's Life in Lists

Annie's Life in Lists

Kristin Mahoney
For ages 9 to 12
Random House, 2018   ISBN: 978-1524765095

Annie loves to write lists. In fact, she can turn just about any train of thought or narrative into a list, which is quite a skill. She is also really good at being very quiet so that she blends in with her environment. There have even been occasions when people haven’t realized that she was there at all. Being quiet suits Annie and she has no interest in becoming more outgoing.

Then there is Annie’s memory, which is a powerful thing. She seems to be able to remember just about everything that she hears or learns about other people. Her ability to recall minutiae about other people’s lives can freak them out on occasion, which is why she has learned not to share her ability with everyone.

Annie never imagines that she, the girl whom most people ignore, will end up becoming famous in her school, but this is just what happens. Annie is asked to go to the principal’s office to deliver a note and she starts to “blab,” which is what she does when she is nervous. She ends up telling the principal something that reveals that she and her family no longer live in the school’s catchment area. Annie’s parents are told that she will not be allowed to return to the school in the fall.

Annie’s parents announce that they are going to leave Brooklyn and they are going to move to a small town called Clover Gap. Annie’s big brother Ted is furious and he blames Annie. If she hadn’t blabbed something that was stored in her memory to the principal they would not be moving. Annie feels terribly guilty, and knowing that she will have to leave behind her best friend Millie makes her feel even worse. What if she can’t find someone to be her friend in Clover Gap?

Annie spends the summer mooching around the new house and staying out of Ted’s way. He is still really angry with her and is always grumpy and anti-social. She also spends a fair amount of time dreading the first day of school. For a shy person, being the new kid in a class can be excruciating. Annie hopes that she can “blend in” with the other kids and that her memory doesn’t get her into trouble again. Annie would like to make at least two new friends, but is not sure how she is going to do this if she is also trying to be “invisible.”

The good news is that Annie does start to make friends. First a classmate called Zora befriends her, and then a girl called Kate shows an interest in spending time with Annie. Annie especially likes Zora, though she does not like Zora’s best friend Amelia. Amelia clearly dislikes Annie and goes out of her way to be mean and unkind to her.

Though Annie is happy to have Zora and Kate in her life, this does not stop her from wanting to stay close to Mille, even if she is in Brooklyn. The problem is that Millie does not seem to be very interested in keeping their friendship going. She does not reply to emails very often and Annie is worried that she is losing Millie altogether.

On the home front things are a little tricky. Annie’s parents talk about money a lot and Annie can tell that their finances are tight. Ted is still standoffish and he still blames Annie for the move, which is tiresome to say the least. Then, quite by chance, Annie finds out that her father lost his job in Brooklyn before she revealed the family secret to the principal. She was not to blame for the move after all. Annie feels very upset that her parents did not tell her about her dad’s job situation. For months she has been feeling guilty for something that was not her fault at all.

In this charming book we meet a girl whose story is told using a list format most of the time. The interesting thing about this arrangement is that we really get to experience what it would be like to see the world through Annie’s eyes. Her fears, worries, and struggles come through in such a honest and open way that we feel that we know Annie well.