Thursday, March 17, 2011

We Hear the Dead, by Dianne K. Salerni

by Dianne K. Salerni
Sourcebooks, Inc.
Copy received from publisher for Cybils consideration.

I began the deception when I was too young to know right from wrong. Only with the passing of time did I come to understand the consequences of my actions.
I do not believe that I have ever intentionally deceived anyone. Maggie has a different understanding of the events that have happened. To her the spirits were always a game. For me they were my life's calling. I have no regrets.
It starts as a harmless prank...then one lie quickly grows into another. Soon Kate and Maggie Fox are swept into a dizzying flurry of national attention for their abilities to communicate with the dead. But living a lie is sometimes too much to handle, even if you have the best intentions. Based on a true story, We Hear the Dead reveals how secrets and lies can sometimes lead you to what's real and what's right. And how sometimes talking with the dead is easier than talking with the people around you.

We had heard of the Fox sisters and were vaguely aware of their roles in the rise of spiritualism, but didn't know many specifics of their life story. There were times when we itched to hit the internet and find out how much of the story was historically accurate, but we didn't want to ruin the ending for ourselves. Of course, a little foreshadowing gave away the basic parts, but we wanted to let the details unfold by themselves. We were not disappointed, and the story held our interest to the end.

The topic of teens getting caught in a web of lies is not a new one to YA fiction, but the end result here is a bit different. There is no huge disastrous event where the heroine is caught in her lies, followed by a chapter or two in which she must make amends and regain everyone's trust, having learned her lesson and repented. In other words, this story is a bit more realistic (go figure, since it's based on a true one!) There is some exploration of whether some lies are better than others, or why they might be seen that way. Differing viewpoints are given on the same subjects, leaving it to the readers to make up their own minds. The girls' deception leads to both positive and negative consequences, and again the readers will have to decide which outweighs the other.

A note about the cover. While it does catch they eye and convey the sense of charlatanry (is that a word?), there is no way Maggie or Kate, as they are portrayed in the book, would have been allowed to dress like that. Kate is constantly put forth to the public as an innocent girl, Maggie as demure and ladylike. The brown roots showing through the red hair are, artistically, a nice way to illustrate looking beneath the surface, but again, this does not match up with either sister.

A very nice first novel, and we are adding Salerni to our list of authors to watch.

4 out of 5.

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