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The Third Eye    by Lois Duncan order for
Third Eye
by Lois Duncan
Order:  USA  Can
Laurel Leaf, 2006 (1984)

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

The opening lost and found incident sets the mood and grasps readers' attention in Lois Duncan's exceptional story of a gifted young woman, The Third Eye. With a compelling plot and steadfast characterizations, the award-winning author delves into the subject of psychic phenomena.

While babysitting for the Zenners, Karen Connors is in the kitchen feeding eighteen-month old Stephanie. Seven-year old Bobby is playing with his friends when he disappears. Karen just knew Bobby wasn't in his home yard, and had 'no explanation to offer. Karen did not try to find one. She had learned to accept without question knowledge that came to her in this abrupt and chilling manner, because experience had taught her that it was always right.' She calls the police. Karen can sense the boy, sees what he's seeing, feels what he's feeling. She tells police officer Ronald Wilson that 'He's trapped somewhere ... He isn't able to come home. He wants to, but he can't ... Bobby's caught in a box ... the vision was vividů with an awareness of motion'. When Tim arrives to pick up Karen at the Zenners, Bobby is found in the trunk of his car. Tim had visited Karen briefly while she was babysitting, and Bobby accidentally got shut in the trunk. Karen said it was a guess, but Officer Wilson knew differently.

Mrs. Connors' reluctance to expose her daughter to scrutiny, and consistent denials of Karen's psychic abilities come from past experiences in other towns. They have had to relocate a few times because Karen was seen as an 'oddity ... a freak'. Karen doesn't recall the incidents her mother relates, but the episode with Bobby lingers heavily within her. 'The difference in her so-called 'abnormality' could not be seen, but it had existed for as long as she could remember, separating her from her classmates like an invisible wall. It wasn't that they disliked her; they were simply not quite comfortable around her', excluding her from the groups they formed. Her current status as a 'normal and noticed' high school Senior evolved from dating popular Tim Dietz. They are referred to as a the 'cutest couple', and she's asked to be on the Prom decorating committee.

The morning after the Bobby incident, Officer Wilson arrives at the Connor home, asking for help finding eight-year old Carla Sanchez. Against her mother's wishes, Karen spends time amongst Carla's belongings, developing a sense of where the girl might be. As Ron and she leave the Sanchez property, Karen is overcome with images of roads the officer should turn onto. This takes them to a nearby river where they find Carla's sandals and her new birthday bicycle on the embankment. The Sanchez incident leaves Karen overwhelmed, exhausted, shaken, and determined never to help the police again. The police promised that Karen's name would be kept from the public, but the morning newspaper headlines the retrieval of Carla's body from the river, and names Karen Connor as the one responsible for finding the child. The telephone begins to ring continuously, and letters arrive daily from parents wanting Karen's help. And that is only the beginning of Karen's traumatic journey.

The Third Eye is a poignant story of a young woman's denial of her gift, her determination to be considered normal, and her struggles to overcome public criticism and cynicism. In her writings, Duncan shows people's different points of view, with eloquent descriptions of contexts, from the tension of danger and suspense to the solitude of a sparkling river, and the chirping of birds in a flowering meadow. Of herself, Lois Duncan has written: 'My primary message (I hope) is that reading is fun. Another underlying message, which seems to work its way into many of my books, is the importance of taking responsibility for one's own actions.' I unequivocally recommend The Third Eye as a prime read for young adults as well as adults.

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