"The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen" (Putnam), by Katherine Howe
To call Katherine Howe's latest novel a ghost story would be an unfair oversimplification. Yes, there's a ghost. And, yes, it's a can't-put-down story. But it's much more than a young adult novel.
Any discerning reader will be mesmerized by the story of 19-year-old Wes, a budding documentary filmmaker from Wisconsin who is in New York City for a summer program at NYU.
"The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen" begins stereotypically at a seance that Wes' friend and fellow summer student, Tyler, is filming. A beautiful young woman wearing a dress with a satin bow is blocking Tyler's shot.
Wes sees her first through the lens of his camera. "I inhale once, sharply, the way I do when jumping into the lake by my parents' house for the first time at the beginning of the summer, when the water hits me so hard and cold that it makes my heart stop."
So it begins.
The city is one of the novel's main characters and Howe brilliantly stitches together the Manhattan of today with the Manhattan of 1825. She covers the same ground, seeing the city then and now. She captures the slang and speaking styles of Wes and his friends as well as the 16-year-old Annie, a girl of a different age who's forbidden from going out alone and is preparing for her inevitable marriage.
Wes and his friends are smart, realistically flawed, clever and quirky. Still, like this novel, they're wholly likable.