Ghost stories are often a hit or miss for me. I’m one of those people that likes to have my endings clear-cut and easy to understand and most times, ghost stories don’t do that. That being said, I went into The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen with apprehension but also excitement at the prospect and ended up enjoying it.
The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen tells the story of Wes Auckerman and Annie van Sinderen. Wes is a 19-year-old aspiring filmmaker and documentarian, spending his summer in New York City as a student at NYU with the goal of being able to transfer there in the fall. For a class assignment, he helps his friend Tyler shoot footage of a séance (a ritual done by a psychic), where he meets the jaw-droppingly beautiful and mysterious Annie, who he immediately can’t get out of his mind. Annie is a 17-year-old girl who grew up in New York City in a privileged family with political power. She’s been summoned back from the dead to solve the mystery surrounding her death in 1825 but she’s struggling to stay here and find what it is she needs. Very quickly, Wes and Annie’s lives become intertwined and they have to work together to figure out what happened on that fateful night before it’s too late.
Katherine Howe has mastered how to write stories that blend together the present and the past. The story is told through different parts: Wes, Annie, and Wes & Annie together. For the most part, I found the transitions between the voices to be clear and the changes between past and present easy to understand. One of the things I enjoyed the most about the book was the look at the differences between New York City today and what New York City was like in 1825. Wes shows us the NYC of today through his adventures with Tyler, his roommate Eastlin, and his new friend Maddie. We see the New York City of the 1800s through Annie’s memories as she tries to untangle the missing pieces from the night of her death. Since she grew up in a political family, there’s plenty of scandal and surprises to be revealed as you read, so the history is fun and interesting. It also makes for a fun storyline. One of the most enjoyable parts for me was seeing modern New York through Annie’s eyes—her shock at taxi cabs or delight at things we normally take for granted.
The mystery kept me intrigued and interested the whole time. The blending in of historical elements was really interesting and I thought it added a lot to the story. The story had plenty of twists I didn’t see coming and I really appreciated how all of Wes’s friends were involved in the search for answers for Annie by the end. However, personally, the ending left me slightly unsatisfied. I didn’t get all of my questions answered and was left with new questions that will never be answered. I do recommend The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen because I really enjoyed the blending of past and present but be warned: if you’re the kind of person who needs every last one of your questions answered, it may not be the right book for you.
It’s summertime in New York City, and aspiring filmmaker Wes Auckerman has just arrived to start his summer term at NYU. While shooting a séance at a psychic’s in the East Village, he meets a mysterious, intoxicatingly beautiful girl named Annie.
As they start spending time together, Wes finds himself falling for her, drawn to her rose petal lips and her entrancing glow. But there’s something about her that he can’t put his finger on that makes him wonder about this intriguing hipster girl from the Village. Why does she use such strange slang? Why does she always seem so reserved and distant? And, most importantly, why does he only seem to run into her on one block near the Bowery? Annie’s hiding something, a dark secret from her past that may be the answer to all of Wes’s questions . . .