Willo Davis Roberts’ 1980 The Girl with the Silver Eyes is a middle-grade stand-alone science fiction novel.
The disintegration of her parents’ marriage, a disintegration exacerbated by financial woes, forced Katie’s parents to leave her in the custody of her Grandma Welker. When Grandma Welker died in a fall, Katie moved in with her mother, in the city.
Adjusting to urban life after a rural childhood is challenge enough. Katie’s circumstances are complicated by the fact that the odd-looking girl has powers beyond human ken.
Katie cannot conceal her silver eyes. She has been somewhat more successful at protecting the secret of her telekinesis (despite her sometimes-childish delight in pranks) as well as her telepathic abilities. Nevertheless, her rural neighbors often viewed Katie with suspicion. How long will it take for city folk to react the same way?
A sequence of lackluster babysitters leaves Katie with lots of spare time to make friends with her next-door neighbors, old Mrs. Michaelmas and her cat, as well neighborhood paperboy Jackson Jones. However, the activity that consumes an increasing amount of time is Katie’s search for the other members of a very special group of children whose existence she has only just discovered.
Katie has learned that her mother used to work at a pharmaceutical company that produced a drug since withdrawn from production. Four women, Katie’s mother included, on that production line became pregnant. Did the drug imbue Katie with powers? If it did, might the other three children have similar abilities?
Perhaps in some wild future, Katie would be able to search online for the rest of her cohort. Disco era America offers only physical records, such as old letters, phone books, and library documents, not all of which are easy for a ten-year-old to access. Nevertheless, Katie manages to track down two of her three potential companions.
Katie’s quest is disrupted by Mr. Casey, a charming bachelor who moved into the building soon after Katie arrived. Pure coincidence? Perhaps not. Mr. Casey is very interested in Katie. Far too interested. High on Katie’s worry list: has Mr. Casey come to arrest her for the murder of Grandma Welker?
Weird how something can become a period piece simply by staying in print for forty-two years.
One (but not the only) detail of the setting that has radically changed since this novel was written: the primitive state of technology. Katie must comb through paper records, some of which are located in places an unattended ten-year-old may find difficult to access without adult assistance Since Katie’s mother works and her sitters are a disappointing lot, Katie’s quest is greatly hampered. Today she’d just fire up a search engine and locate much of the information she wanted in a few hours1.
Another detail that bugs me: Katie’s mother snatches a novel called The Secret of Fire House Five out of Katie’s hands. Every other book mentioned in this work is a real book. However, an online search failed to turn up any evidence that something called The Secret of Fire House Five ever existed. Was it a salacious work of the 1970s that has been suppressed? Was it an innocent YA that has been lost to time? Did the author make this up for some reason? I may never know.
To reassure worried readers: Katie did not pull a Carrie Whiteon her grandmother. However, her suspicious rural neighbors felt that a girl who was unconventional enough to look odd might very well throw an old lady down the stairs. It may not be entirely bad for Katie that she left that neighborhood behind.
Speaking of Stephen King novels, the novel reminded me of Firestarter. Both books imagine a drug that induces paranormal abilities and both feature a shadowy government organization keenly interested in people with said abilities. The organization in Girl presents itself more positively than Firestarter’s Shop but of course, it would. Nothing its representative says about it is verified.
The Girl with Silver Eyes is competently written for its age group, with an important caveat: the narrative does not come to a resolution so much as an abrupt halt. It’s almost as though the author was working to a strict word count limit and having reached it, brought the story to a very sudden end. Pity, because until then the tale was engaging.
1: An older YA novel I previously reviewed, Down a Dark Hall, has been modernized and reprinted. I don’t think The Girl With Silver Eyes could be modernized without substantial revisions; in fact, such revisions might completely break the plot. I simply mention this on the off chance that a publisher contemplating an updated edition of this novel is reading this review.