his novel, THE WATCHER, James Howe writes about three troubled
teenagers who meet at Fire Island, a seaside resort. As a result of
this encounter, their lives will be forever changed and connected
for all time.
Howe uses a combination of allegory, stark realism and his
knowledge of what it is like to be a young person in an ever
changing world where you can't always get what you want, to create
a sensitive and emotionally charged novel.
Chris Powell has escaped to the beach to work as a lifeguard. It's
easier than staying at home, where he cannot take the place of his
dead baby brother in his father's affections --- so why try? As he
works, he realizes that a "bony girl with loose brown hair" is
For Evan, the summer starts off innocently enough. But something
isn't right with his perfect family. Are his parents thinking of
divorce? His mother says no, that just like in the broken snail
shells she is collecting, "She has to find the beauty in what there
is instead of what I thought was there."
Margaret, the bony girl with the brown hair, called "The Watcher"
by the other teens, sits day after day writing in her notebook. She
is creating a fairy-tale world, borrowing stranger's lives, trying
to escape from her unbearable beast as she watches the families on
the beach and fantasizes. Evan asks his mother what she sees when
she looks at "The Watcher." "A broken shell," his mother answers.
When Margaret places herself into the picture of Evan's family, she
causes the fragile shell of her world to fall apart. Now Margaret
must face the beast. Has she wanted a new life too much? Will her
angels be in time to rescue her from the beast?
THE WATCHER is Margaret's story, haunting and compelling. But it is
also Chris and Evan's story as they each try to work out their own
problems, afraid to want something too much. It is a deeply
psychological novel about growing up, facing your parents'
shortcomings and of being able to admit abuse. This book, if you
dare to read it, will trouble you for a long time, because each of
the characters could be one of your friends, your next door
neighbor, a stranger on a crowded beach or even yourself.
Reviewed by Audrey Marie Danielson on October 18, 2011
- Publication Date: June 1, 1999
- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Atheneum
- ISBN-10: 0689826621
- ISBN-13: 9780689826627