Astrid Sims is a new girl in town. The Gotten, by Rob Tucker, is a young adult novel that introduces a precocious thirteen-year-old British girl into the world of pre-teen boys. Set in the 1950s in a small Mid-west town, Astrid’s intimidating personality, intellect and boldness set her apart from the other girls. She self-assuredly inserts herself into a clique of four boys, Ray Kern, Eddie Devito, Steven Tilman, and Clement Petersen. Although they resent her for including herself in their social circle, she ingratiates herself by contributing a doorbell to the boys’ tree fort. She says the bell is magical and introduces a game she called, “ring if you dare.”
Astrid impresses the boys with her world of imagination by installing the doorbell on their tree fort. She starts a rumor that if a person rings the bell with a question in mind, the bell will provide an answer. Does it really have that power?
Suddenly the boys and Astrid disappear, causing chaos in the small community. The police, news media, and parents become involved in searching for the boys and Astrid. Rumors fly. They question if she is a witch who has control of the future?
The plot jumps to events in the future that devastate the adults involved while the boys face supernatural forces as they observe their own future. Mysterious cosmic/spiritual happenings in the present can be related to the past, but the past is now the present. The future will soon be the present. What or who controls the future?
The many characters presented in the novel are distinctive. Astrid is a natural beauty, tall and intelligent. Her British accent gives her a sense of superiority. She is thought to be haughty, and no one can argue with her intellect. The four boys and minor characters are well fleshed out. The plot is dialogue-driven with the story told through conversations between the various characters.
The story asks, “How does magic work?” Magic seems to have a mind of its own. When asked about the boys’ disappearance, Astrid states that she doesn’t have any special powers, only an imagination. She says that wherever the boys are “is because they want to be there. It’s their own wish, their future, their own prediction.”
As readers follow the investigation into the boys’ disappearance and Astrid’s involvement, questions about how we influence our future through our actions in the present will keep us awake. Would you dare to ring the bell?