Annabelle has a pretty nice life in a rural town in the 1940's until Betty moves in. Betty is a cruel and violent bully who beats Annabelle and threatens her younger brothers. Annabelle has a friend and ally who helps protect her from Betty named Jacob. He is a WWI vet who lives as a hermit, and has a quiet and sensitive nature. When Betty turns up missing the town blames Jacob, and it is up to Annabelle to try to prove his innocence.
So this book is the top of lots of Newbery lists. Granted, it is probably the most literary of the books on the list, that is to say there is more in it that a high school English teachers might ask students to write a paper about than any of the other children's books this year. It has the nice language, the foreshadowing, the moral and ethical issues, the symbolism that English teachers love. I, however hated the book. It was just too harsh and brutal. (spoiler alert, don't read on if you don't want spoilers) I started to read it back in October, but put it down when Betty kills a dove as a means of intimidation. I didn't want to read more, but it is on my mock Newbery list and I heard it was my boss's top pick, so I picked it back up and in the next chapter the little girl gets blinded by a rock. I am thinking, ok, so maybe the brutality is over, but then later, they find Betty impaled and bleeding to death and in the end Toby gets shot by the police. So not a single happy thing happens in this book. It is just all awfulness. (291 p.)