Amelia Brunskill’s YA novel The Window follows teenage narrator Jess as she tries to come to terms with the unexpected death of her twin sister, Anna. Although the sisters were identical, they were also complete opposites. Anna was outgoing and popular; Jess is solitary and, some might say, a bit strange.
Anna’s body is discovered by her mother “underneath her window: eyes closed, not moving.” The police determine that she’d been sneaking out and fallen to her death accidentally. But none of that makes sense to Jess who recalls that night
Had Anna seemed upset? I didn’t think so. If anything, she’d seemed calmer than she’d been in a while, more peaceful. Happy, almost shining with it, like she had a secret. A good one.
Anna’s death pushes Jess way out of her comfort zone. She’s aware that she’s not necessarily like other teens and notes “My parents used to think there was something wrong with me.” Numerous visits to doctors, and not the kind who checked her physical health, don’t yield any answers, at least not to the reader. It does make Jess an unreliable narrator, which suits this story quite well because she just doesn’t understand where her sister was going and why she didn’t know about it. These are girls who used to share everything, or at least that’s what Jess thought.
…I thought I’d understood her too. Thought I’d known everything about her. But I kept going back to the policeman’s questions: if she’d seemed upset recently, if she’d had a boyfriend. I’d said no to both, without even thinking I could be wrong.
Brunskill’s story is a mystery the builds steam as it goes along. There’s a former best friend who moves away and won’t talk to Jess; there’s a suspicious relationship with a authority figure; there’s whispered rumours; there’s a recovered phone. As Jess becomes more certain that Anna’s fall is part of a bigger story, she also slowly starts crawling out of her social shell. Perhaps it’s because she’s playing Nancy Drew, but she does make friends along the way.
The Window is a clever novel about the damage of secrets and family. It’s well-written and would certainly appeal to readers who enjoy a strong female protagonist, and a few well-placed twists and turns.