Anderson does not reveal what is bothering her protagonist until well into the story. This creates suspense, which keeps her readers turning the pages to find out what is going to happen next and why Melinda is acting so strangely. Authors tend to use various forms of suspense to keep their readers engaged in the story. Suspense can also put readers in an active, rather than passive state, as they attempt to guess what happened by putting together the clues the author provides. Not all novels have to be classified as mysteries in order to create suspense. Most good novels have some element of suspense. Some are more subtle than others. Suspense is most obvious in crime novels and psychological thrillers. However, all well-written novels will provide enough unanswered questions to sustain the reader’s curiosity and thus offer suspense.
Throughout Anderson’s novel, the narrative follows a certain path for only a short period. Rather than having long chapters devoted to a particular scene, Anderson hops from one short scene to another with little transition between them. This can be a little confusing at first, but by doing so, the author reflects the state of the protagonist’s mind. Melinda admits that she has trouble sorting through her thoughts. For this reason, she has difficulty speaking. Her focus is on keeping her emotions buried, and this takes a lot of concentration. She sometimes loses control over her emotions and must run away. By jumping from one topic to another, the author recreates that same feeling in the reader’s mind. For a few paragraphs, the reader follows the activities in Melinda’s art class, for example. Then without any forewarning, Melinda might next be at home, in another class, or in the halls. The reader follows along, symbolically sharing the protagonist’s unstable psychological state of mind, switching from one short thought to another.
Sara Constantakis (Editor), Novels for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels, Volume 31, Laurie Halse Anderson, Published by Gale, Cengage Learning, 2010.