September 28, 2018

Enid Strange

Written by Meghan Rose Allen
240 pp.
Ages 10-13
May 2018 CAN / September 2018 US

Enid Strange is eleven years old and she is writing a book, How to See the Faeries. Of course, you can't just "see" faeries as they "work through non-anticipation" (pg. 8) but you can see their shadows in patches of sunlight viewed in your right periphery.  Spotting faeries and writing her book engross Enid whose life is far from normal.

She and her mother live in a semi-detached rental home next to Mrs. Delavecchio whom Enid treats as a grandmother and her mother treats as an unpaid babysitter. In fact, Enid's mother, Margery, who'd always believed in faeries and knew enough to create banishing powders and plant trees to protect their house, now seems almost angry to Enid's interests. In fact, Margery is downright nasty to her daughter.
"I just wonder why," her mother said, returning to whisking, "you didn't turn out differently." (pg. 35)

Enid begins to think that the faeries are up to mischief, knocking over trees in the garden, bewitching her mother whose behaviour is definitely becoming odder and manipulating Margery's relationship with Dr. Holden, a geriatric psychiatrist at the William O. Wistop Memorial Long Term Care Facility (which Enid calls the Will O'Wisp) where Margery works. This is worse still as Dr. Holden's seventeen-year-old daughter Amber is always getting up into Enid's business. It's up to Enid to make things right and she intends to do so by catching the faeries.

Enid Strange, the book, is as odd a little thing as Enid Strange the girl. After all, faeries aren't real, are they? Readers will start by wondering whether Enid is just imagining the little mischievous creatures or whether they truly exist. Weird things are definitely happening at home and at school and it's not surprising that a girl who is told to behave herself since "We don't want you to be someone who spoils other people's happiness" (pg. 82) would be looking to find a way to take some control over her own life in a world going wacko. And Enid is an astute little thing. She sees more than she lets on and comprehends beyond her eleven years of age. For example, she knows how important it would be for the lonely Mrs. Delavecchio to reconnect with her son in prison: "She told me you are broken. Well, fix yourself up and send her a letter." (pg. 73) She devises a hypothesis that "faeries are able to manipulate light's dual nature: using waves to propel themselves forward and using particles to hide behind when they wish to remain unseen" (pg. 136) and proposes an experiment to test it.

Author Meghan Rose Allen gives voice to middle graders who have lots of ideas about their parents, school, and home life but never seem to be heard. Enid has a lot going on in her life. Loads. And yet she seems to have no support system. She's out there on her own, trying to deal with nastiness from Amber Holden and being ignored by her mother who disregards her parenting responsibilities and chastizes Enid for her dramatics when learning who her father is. Meghan Rose Allen embeds Enid's story in a rich world of faeries, and not your sweet pink variety, and allows the child to take some control over her life, with a little help from some unexpected supports, and learning that there is magic around and even in her.

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