Things aren't going so well for Abbie Thompson, protagonist of Joan Lowrey Nixon's Nobody's There. Her father just left her mother for another woman. Even worse, he appears not to care about Abbie, 17, or her 10-year-old brother, Davy, anymore. Abbie is hurt. And furious. In a fit of anger she inadvertently breaks the windows of her father's girlfriend's apartment. Suddenly Abbie finds herself arrested for malicious mischief.
A judge sentences Abbie to work for a program that pairs teenagers with elderly people. The other kids participating in the program are honors students. Abbie is not. The program director (the mean judge's mean wife!) reminds her of this and constantly refers to Abbie's "criminal" record, warning Abbie that if she messes up with her assigned person, her criminal record will not be wiped clean. Abbie is understandably anxious.
On her first day with the program, Abbie expects to meet some little old lady who eats chocolate and smells like marshmallows. Not quite. She winds up paired with one very cantankerous Edna Merkel. Mrs. Merkel fancies herself a private investigator. She snaps at Abbie constantly, calls Abbie her "driver," and threatens to tell on Abbie to the judge if she doesn't do everything she asks. No one likes Mrs. Merkel. She even fired the past two girls assigned to her in the program. But Abbie has no choice, her criminal record being on the line and all.
After several visits spent driving Mrs. Merkel to "investigate," Abbie becomes fed up. Mrs. Merkel demands Abbie drive her around daily, when she is only supposed to visit a few times a week. So Abbie skips a visit, choosing instead to have ice cream with a cute boy who keeps asking her out.
Abbie chose the wrong time not to show up at Mrs. Merkel's house. Somehow, Mrs. Merkel's private investigations turned up something real, and she was attacked in her home, an effort to silence her. With Mrs. Merkel in the hospital, Abbie sets out to decipher the scribbles in Mrs. Merkel's private investigator notebook. Abbie wants to solve the mystery of who hurt her. Working with the police, Abbie finds herself in danger.
Author Joan Lowery Nixon, who has written more than a hundred books for young readers, is famous for her mysteries; she is the four-time winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Best Juvenile Mystery award. But Nixon doesn't only write mystery well. She writes family well. While working with Mrs. Merkel, Abbie slowly begins to work through her parents' breakup. She finds a way to befriend and communicate with her little brother. She also learns that she needs to speak with her mother about her father, even if she is worried about her mother's feelings.
Nobody's There is a quick, entertaining read, with a family moral or two. The plot is just tense enough, not too scary, with a special focus on a family in the midst of a divorce. The mother, daughter, and brother have deep, lovely relationships. At 17 Abbie goes through a transformation that all kids must go through at some point in their lives: Faced with the shock of a newly deadbeat dad, she opens her eyes wide enough to see her parents as humans, and not just as parents. She does a good job of it, all while solving a mysterious crime.
Used availability for Joan Lowery Nixon's Nobody's There
January 2004 : USA Library Binding
November 2001 : USA Library Binding
October 2001 : USA Library Binding
May 2000 : USA Hardback
January 2004 : USA Paperback
November 2001 : USA Mass Market Paperback
October 2012 : USA, Canada, UK Kindle edition