Ideas for Learners Promoting Literacy, Inquiry, and Meaningful Learning Experiences
The Girl in the Well is Me by Karen Rivers

Book Summary

Kammie just moved to a town she refers to as "Nowheresville," in Texas. In order to hang out with the popular girls, she agreed to pass some challenges, like cutting her hair. However, the latest challenge has gone wrong, and now Kammie is inside a well, with her arms stuck. The girls are laughing at her. They're laughing at her. Kammie wonders why she ever cared what those girls thought, what will become of her torn up family, and whether she will ever escape her predicament.

The Girl in the Well is Me book cover
The Girl in the Well is Me

Book Review

If you are familiar with the nature of worry, you may appreciate what the author has done here, in terms of jumping from extreme to extreme in a funny/not-funny series of imaginings. Something is crawling on her foot and she can't reach it - it's probably a venomous spider - she definitely feels weak and that must be a spider bite symptom - but if it's on her bare foot, her shoes are missing - the shoes were expensive and now she lost them and can't afford new ones . . .

There are a lot of things going wrong with Kammie's life right now - so much so that she talks about not dying, but "un-being." Pieces of her story unfold and we discover that in addition to trouble with the mean girls, her mother is falling apart and her brother ignores her, and her father is in prison for a crime he committed. There's good and bad here - the book suffers because when one character is stuck somewhere alone, you have the Castaway movie effect - in order to have dialogue, you need internal monologue, flashback, and/or imaginary friends, and the book uses all of these. There is some language that would not be appropriate for a read-aloud in most U.S. schools.

There are points when it is hard to keep reading about her worrying, and to keep discovering all the painful things going on in her life. While it's a little tiresome to keep adding problems that stem from her father's criminal behavior, it also raises some thought-provoking points about the instant rush to judgment from the people in Kammie's town, including the alienation by her best friend, horrible comments from strangers in the grocery store, and discussing the article about her father's crime in her fifth grade current events class. Ideally, this would encourage readers to consider the harm from gossip and public criticism, just as Kammie questions her own conduct before her father's crime was revealed.

Fun Fact: The author was born and raised in Nanaimo, British Columbia.
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'We ARE helping. DUH!'
She's starting to sound a whole lot less caring and a whole bunch more annoyed, like this is something I've done to her, like I've really inconvenienced her."

Topics and Themes for this book:

  • Popularity; Wanting to Fit In; Mean Girls
  • Family Relationships
  • Class; Reversal of Fortune
  • Parent in Jail
  • Gossip; Judgment
  • Being True to Yourself
  • Taking Responsibility

Discussion Questions for this book:

The best discussion questions, of course, are generated by and contemplated by readers. These questions are designed to avoid major spoilers about the book, and to provide a starting point for teachers, parents, and student reading groups.

    **Questions Coming Soon **

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