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What We Want Most

Appearances are very deceiving in Katherine Howe’s The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen.

What We Want Most

BOOK REPORT for The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen by Katherine Howe

Cover Story: Knock, Knock
BFF Charm: Meh x 2
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: He Said/She Said/They Said
Bonus Factors: History, Sassy Best Friends
Anti-Bonus Factor: Manic Pixie Dream Girl
Relationship Status: No Sparks

Cover Story: Knock, Knock

This cover is pretty simple, but the knocker on the door as the main focus gives it a bit of a vintage—and sinister—feel. Disembodied parts are always a little bit freaky, regardless of how nicely they’re depicted. (Perhaps I’m just too into Halloween mode to see anything other than a hand coming through the door?)

The Deal:

Wes is in New York City for the summer, attending classes at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He’s an aspiring documentary maker, and has spent much of his summer filming people in the city, asking them what they want most in their lives.

One night, he attends a séance with his friend and fellow film student, Tyler, to assist with Tyler’s film. At the séance, he speaks to a mysterious young woman who seems a little lost—but Wes is smitten. When Tyler asks him to track down said girl to get her to sign a release form, he takes on the task more than willingly.

But when Wes eventually finds the girl—Annie—he begins to feel that, regardless of the immediate attraction they feel, something’s not quite right about her, and there’s more standing in the way of them being together than either might realize.

BFF Charm: Meh x 2

As much as Wes and Annie seemed like decent people, I never really made a true connection to either of them. I never felt an overwhelming interest in them or their lives, even though I really wanted to. Wes reminded me of many people I met in college, people I haven’t stayed in touch with because we were never really more than acquaintances. Annie’s more intriguing, but I still feel like becoming friends would be more effort than payoff.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

There are relationships in this book. Much like I wanted to want to become friends with Wes and Annie, however, I wanted to get invested in the relationships, but just never could.

Talky Talk: He Said/She Said/They Said

The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen is broken into three parts. The first is told from Wes’ POV, the second from Annie’s, and the third switches between the two without really explaining who’s who. Although it becomes obvious once you get into a chapter and one of the characters thinks something or says something to the other(s), it’s a little confusing at first to jump between the two.

Don’t get me wrong, Katherine Howe is a good writer. The grammar and mechanics of the The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen are pretty tight. There’s just nothing that really stands out about the book. Its plot, even though it could be filled with excitement and intrigue, rolls out evenly. The characters, even though they could be extremely interesting and unique, don’t stand out from each other enough. As I was reading, I felt a little like the book had been written in Ben Stein’s voice (i.e., monotone, with little variation in emotion or pitch). There’s nothing really wrong with the book, per se, but it never really grabbed me.

Bonus Factor: History

Parts of the book take place in a very early version of New York City (called New-York, apparently, in those days), and it’s fun reading about Manhattan before it became the city that never sleeps.

Bonus Factor: Sassy Best Friends

Wes’ summer school roommate, Eastlin, is a very attractive gay guy who’s in the fashion program, stays out all night clubbing, goes to the gym frequently, and works at a high-end clothing store. Is he a stereotype? Yes. But he stands out among the rest of the secondary characters like a shining star, and I wanted much more from him.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Because we see Annie first through Wes’ eyes, she comes across the page as very much an MPDG. Unfortunately, even when we see her through her own POV, she doesn’t fully shake off the trope.

Casting Call:

Andrew Garfield as Wes

Skyler Samuels as Annie

Yoon Shi Yoon as Tyler

Relationship Status: No Sparks

It’s not that I didn’t have an OK time on our date, Book, but the chemistry just wasn’t there. I think we’re both better off looking for love elsewhere.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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