Others See Us takes place at the summer estate of Jared's grandmother, which she and her late husband had bought years before. Scattered across the property are four cottages, which Jared suggests are really more like comfortable houses, one for his mother and her brother and two sisters. The main building is a gothic, three-story, gabled house overlooking the sea. The estate's exact geographic location is unclear, although it is in an area where most of the summer residents, including Jared's own family who recently toured Europe, have money.
Near the main house is a swamp filled with toxic waste formed by dumping from a nearby mill. The waste inside, Jared discovers, gives anyone who comes in contact with it the ability to see into others' minds. For the most part, the estate and the swamp are merely background for the battles waged within the minds of Jared, Annelise, Lindie, and their grandmother.
In some respects, Others See Us is a more "literary" work than Sleator's other novels. The book begins with an epigram by Scottish poet Robert Burns, "Oh wad some power the giftie gie us/To see ourselves as others see us!" This quote sums up the novel's notion, reiterated in its title, that humans often wish to see themselves as others see us. Sleator soon makes it clear, however, that people's real thoughts about one another are generally not what they say.
In developing this idea, Sleator creates several characters, in particular Jared, Annelise, Lindie, and their grandmother, who are more developed and complex than some of those in his other books. Sleator also gives the novel both credibility and immediacy through its use of a generally likeable first person narrator and through Annelise's diary entries, which effectively reveal her true character.
More importantly, the novel excels in its descriptions of Jared's probes into others' minds, especially those of Annelise and his grandmother. These descriptions make the main plot more plausible and give it substance.
For Further Reference
Codell, Cindy Darling. Review. School Library Journal 39,10 (October 1993): 156. This review argues that although Sleator's Interstellar Pig and The Duplicate are better crafted, the protagonist of Others See Us is likeable and his grandmother is absolutely fascinating.
Daggett, Margaret L. "Recommended: William Sleator." English Journal (March 1987): 93-94. In a highly laudatory essay, Daggett explores the reasons that Sleator's books appeal to her high school students. She focuses on books written before 1987.
Davis, James, and Hazel Davis. Presenting William Sleator. New York: Macmillan, 1992. A critical biography which explores Sleator's life and works.
Dunleavy, M. P. Review. New York Times Book Review (April 24, 1994): 24. Dunleavy writes that Others See Us is one of Sleator's most riveting novels to date, providing readers with a vivid sense of what telepathy might be like. No one who has ever battled with relatives, according to Dunleavy, will be able to put down this book.
Knoth, Maeve Visser. Review. Horn Book 70 (1994): 75. In this starred review, Knoth notes the novel's concern with the seductive nature of power and praises the novel as intriguing, fascinating, and exemplary storytelling.
Review. Publisher's Weekly 240,44 (November 1993): 80-81. This review finds the narrative shrill and forced and the characters unbelievable.
Sleator, William. "Chaos, Strange Attractors, and Other Peculiarities in the English Classroom." In Authors' Insights: Turning Teenagers into Readers and Writers. Edited by Donald R. Gallo. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1992: 43-52. A discussion of some of Sleator's books and the value of science fiction for teen-agers.
"William Sleator." In Speaking for Ourselves: Autobiographical Sketches by Notable Authors of Books for Young Adults. Edited by Donald R. Gallo. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 1990: 193-194. A short autobiographical piece touching on Sleator's development as a writer.
"William Sleator on Creating Readers." Literature for Today's Young Adults. 3d ed. Edited by Kenneth L. Donelson and Alleen Pace Nilsen. New York: Harper, 1989: 348. Sleator discusses his own interest in telling a good story and in keeping the attention of young adult readers.