The Secret Life of Amanda K. Woods

by Ann Cameron

At 11, Amanda Woods feels plain, undistinguished, and uncertain. Perhaps because... read more

At 11, Amanda Woods feels plain, undistinguished, and uncertain. Perhaps because her mother thinks she is "average." But Amanda's feelings start to change the day her best friend, Lyle, moves away. Before he goes, Lyle and Amanda press their perfectly matched right hands together and Lyle shouts "Shazam!" And because Lyle "is a person who can do almost anything," Amanda can just about believe that they have traded hands; that his hand is now hers, and that some of his self-confidence is now hers, too. She draws upon that special knowledge often in the coming months. Amanda's older sister, whose future their overbearing, class-conscious mother has been shaping, is perfectly beautiful, perfectly smart, and perfectly well-behaved (at least in their mother's eyes). But she will be going away to college soon, leaving their mother free to begin "improving" Amanda unless Amanda herself, with the help of her quiet father, can change things. Amanda's family owns a historic hotel in the small, northern Wisconsin community in which they live, and most of the other families do not possess the wealth necessary to meet the approval of Amanda's mother. But this novel set in the 1950s contrasts the hollowness of a life lived for appearances with the refreshing authenticity of Amanda herself, who is both funny and poignant, an 11 year old with desires and loves and dreams and wishes that have nothing to do with wealth and class and everything to do with the need to make connections that are real. (Ages 10-13)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 1998

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