Flashback Fridays: Are you Nobody too? . . .

You’re the only poor scholarship girl at a fancy uptown girl’s school.  You’re bullied and picked on and friendless, until the unusual new girl decides to pursue a friendship with you.  She teaches you how to use your psychic powers to travel back in time to a bygone era . . .

Do you remember:


I’m Nobody! Who are You? by Mary Anderson (Atheneum, 1974)

This book has got to be in the running for one of the worst covers ever.  Honestly, I don’t think I would have picked it up at all except I’d read the Emily Dickinson poem that the book uses as its title and was intrigued.  Once on the inside cover descirption I found it had a character with my name (even if she wasn’t the nicest character) and  it featured psychic powers, well I sort of had to read it.

Ellie is an unattractive and poor scholarship girl at a rich uptown girl’s school in the 1970s.  She is ostracized and bullied, and pretty miserable.  But that’s before Stephanie comes into her life.  Wild and impulsive Stephanie has distant parents who don’t really seem to pay much attention to her, leaving her to her own devices.  Stephanie is girl who marches to her own drummer, dressing and acting in ways entirely different from the norm.  And she inexplicably has decided she wants Ellie as her friend.  It isn’t long before Stephanie is pulling Ellian into her wild ideas, including her theories of psychic connections and powers.  She believes that the combined mental abilities the two of them possess will allow the girls to do all sorts of things with their powers–including time travel.  Ellie goes along with this more than willingly at first, but as it becomes clearer that Stephanie has very personal reasons for fostering this mental power between them, Ellie becomes more and more uncomfortable.  Stephanie seems to have something other than fun in mind for their abilities–can Ellie put a stop to it?

This was a really strange story.  Oddly dark but not horrific.  I don’t have the book in front of me to pull the ending but I remember the ending being sort of sad and rather ambiguous–not a particularly “happy ” ending for either girl.  It’s a rare speculative fiction book that’s set in 1970s New York City, with plenty of identifiable landmarks scattered in the book to identify the city.  Given that I had a rough time in school and felt like an outcast there were pieces of this story that grabbed me because I could really imagine myself in the protagonist’s shoes.

This is lightweight speculative fiction, with things that happen that can seem rather unreal in the aftermath–the stronger story is the rather odd and sometimes unhealthy friendship shared by the protagonists.  This book stuck with me well enough that even years later when I found a library copy for sale I snared it . . . and still have it.  Mary Anderson is known best for her mystery and suspense stories she wrote for kids and teens, this one remains pretty obscure.

Anyone else remember this one?

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –  
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –  
To an admiring Bog!

--Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886

About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on August 31, 2015, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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