Carol Plum-Ucci. The She. HMH, 2005. ISBN 978-0152054533 370 pp. $
Like Plum-Ucci’s other works, The She is a suspenseful mystery centered around a disappearance, dipping (albeit briefly) into the realms of popularity and scapegoats. Evan doesn’t remember many details about the night his parents were lost at sea, or recall the folklore about a mysterious oceanic force who, jealous of lovers who set sail together on her seas, devours ships every few years. It takes a hidden hit of acid from a girl named Grey to set off his repressed memories, just in time to help Grey deal with her own demons.
The complex characters in this novel, though fleshed out, are tortured by their author. Evan which his nightmares and predisposition for hearing the unearthly wailing of the She, is the most normal of the bunch: a molested girl with no verbal censor, an overbearingly rigid communist atheist brother, and salty seadog come together to solve the mystery of that night at sea so long ago: were Evan’s parents taken by Ella Diablo Arujero, or perhaps less believable, were they drug smugglers who staged their own deaths to outrun the DEA?
The tightly written tale blends history, science, folklore, intuition, and superstition to create a haunting plot. Plum-Ucci’s writing remains on par with her Printz honor book The Body of Christopher Creed (Harcourt, 2000) as she explores the themes of identity and how well do we really know anyone, anyway? And, is there room for faith and the unexplainable in the same world? The answers may be best discussed in a peer book group.