Wes is a film student at NYU. While helping his buddy Tyler make a film for the upcoming documentary workshop, he becomes fascinated by a strangely dressed girl who seems to be blocking the camera but then mysteriously disappears. Because Tyler has big plans for his movie, it is Wes’s job to make sure that everyone who appears onscreen signs a release form, but tracking down the disappeared girl might be harder than it seems. Before he knows it, Wes finds himself trapped in a burgeoning romance with goth-girl Maddie and a full-on infatuation with Annie – the girl who blocked the camera, who Wes quickly begins to suspect is actually dead. Annie’s last memory is of attending the Grand Aquatic Display with her parents, in 1825, where an awful tragedy struck and many people were killed. But why is she here, in modern-day New York? Could it have something to do with the cameo Annie lost before she died? Or the note that was nailed to her family’s front door with a knife, that Annie believes was a death threat against her father? She has to find the cameo and discover the truth, and she needs Wes to help her. But time is running out.
This intriguing tale is told from the first person perspectives of Wes and Annie, who take turns relating the story and are compelling narrators with some terrific character traits and very distinct voices. In fact, everyone in this book is beautifully observed with dialogue and mannerisms that never detour into cliché. New York City (both past and present) is also masterfully invoked and often feels like a character in its own right, with Annie’s description of NYC circa 1825 being particularly evocative.
This isn’t really a tale of the supernatural, this is a ghost story where the word ‘ghost’ is never used and it often feels – in many ways – like a Young Adult version of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife (that’s definitely not a criticism.) Annie seems powerless to control her freefall backwards and forwards through the centuries, and it takes her a while to even realise she is dead (it’s an authentically heartbreaking moment, when she comprehends the truth.) Meanwhile, Wes is convincingly apprehensive about the bizarre situation and the complicated romantic feelings he has for this girl-out-of-time. It is gripping storytelling laced with subtle humour that includes pretty much everything you would expect from a great ghost story - drama, mystery and romance – with only the horror missing, although there are plenty of powerfully unsettling moments including a sequence when Annie finds herself terrified and alone, wandering the streets of her 18th century world as 21st century skyscrapers erupt violently out of the ground all around her, and a scene when Wes wakes up from a nightmare only to discover…
No, you’ll have to read it yourself – and you should. The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen is first-class romantic fantasy and very highly recommended.
THE APPEARANCE OF ANNIE VAN SINDEREN / AUTHOR: KATHERINE HOWE / PUBLISHER: ONEWORLD PUBLICATIONS / RELEASE DATE: APRIL 7TH