by Adina Rishe Gewirtz
When eleven-year-old Annie first started lying to her social worker, she had been taught by an expert: Gran. “If you’re going to do something, make sure you do it with excellence,” Gran would say. That was when Gran was feeling talkative, and not brooding for days in her room — as she did after telling Annie and her little brother, Rew, the one thing they know about their father: that he was killed in a fight with an angry man who was sent away. Annie and Rew spend their days under the birches and oaks of the Zebra Forest, telling stories about their father the pirate, or pilot, or secret agent. But then something shocking happens to unravel all their stories: a rattling at the back door, an escapee from the prison holding them hostage in their own home, four lives that will never be the same.
I had no idea originally if I was going to like this book or not. I was very surprised that not only was it a super quick read... but, I also found myself unable to stop reading. The story was a little far-fetched at first (though it tapped into my childhood fears that some random prisoner from a local jail would break into our house *exactly* like this one does...), but the way that Gewirtz writes is so emotionally compelling that I didn't care any more if the story seemed entirely plausible.
Both Annie and Rew's reactions to their father's sudden reappearance in their lives felt absolutely real. The intense resentment at having thought their father was dead, only to learn he'd been alive all that time and that they could have visited him. The hope that maybe he'd been falsely imprisoned, though they really knew he was guilty. Their anger at their grandmother for lying to them, even as she was having trouble coping with reality.
I really liked how the book ended, too. Things were emotionally satisfying, but also realistic. Well done.