Zibby Oneal Robert C. Small

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Robert C. Small

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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Anne Cameron's mother [in A Formal Feeling] was clearly an unusual and talented person, artistic, musical, and literary. Dead for a year as the book opens, she still haunts Anne, and, through her, her father, his new wife, and Anne's brother, Spencer. Although all of the family except Anne want to throw off the oppression of that memory, Anne's return from school at Christmas brings her mother's memory back into the house. Anne is frozen—the "formal feeling" of the title—by her obsession with her mother. She does not, however, seem to have loved her mother so much as been in awe of her and her many talents…. The book is upper class, literary, cultured, and very intellectual. It is also thoughtful and insightful. The style, dialogue, descriptions, and action are both natural and beautifully controlled. Oneal writes very well, and her flawless style raises her somewhat conventional content above itself. This is clearly one of the best young adult books of the year.

Robert C. Small, in a review of "A Formal Feeling," in The ALAN Review, Vol. 10, No. 2, Winter, 1983, p. 23.