Annie pretends to be mentally ill in order to hear juicy gossip from the townsfolk that her mother can use to con her clients into believing she is clairvoyant. Annie is a clever teenage girl who is tired of being used by her mother as a tool in her schemes to fool others into paying big bucks for her psychic readings. One day, however, they are caught in their con and Annie's mom is arrested. Annie's mom charms her prison guard and Annie causes a distraction by pretending to have a seizure in order to rescue her mom from jail. They immediately leave town and move to Peach Hill. Her mom has a new plan to make Annie pretend she is an drooling imbecile so that people around her will let down their guards and talk about their juicy and private secrets in her presence. Then, her mom will pretend to be clairvoyant and sell the information “re-packaged” for a substantial fee. One day while Annie is out pretending to be a dimwit, she sees a handsome boy named Sammy who distracts her so much that she drops her act. A loner waif of a girl notices her and suspects she's just pretending to be an imbecile. The girl runs away because some local boys start to bully Annie and they throw rocks at her and call her ugly. Annie is very upset and wishes she could drop her "retarded" act and show the world how clever and pretty she is.
Annie and her mother continue to run their successful scam business. One day, a wealthy man named Mr. Poole becomes their client and Annie's mother reveals that she has a special plan to visit Mr. Poole's mansion to banish the so-called spirit of his late wife for him. A few days later, Annie and her mom perform a seance in Mr. Poole's mansion. During the seance, Annie shakes the table surreptitiously to make it appear like the spirit of Mrs. Poole is in the room. Annie's mom pretends that the spirit would like Mr. Poole to move on and seek help from clairvoyants like her. Mr. Poole is indebted to Annie's mother and becomes one of their best customers.
Meanwhile, Annie wishes she could just behave normally and have a chance to win over Sammy's attentions. She hopes that her mom won't loiter too long in Peach Hill so that they can move on to another town. Her mom shatters her dreams when she reveals that she plans on marrying Mr. Poole. Annie is so mad that she pretends to go completely insane, shouting how she doesn't want men in her life in the hopes that this will undermine Mr. Poole's intentions of marrying her mother. Unfortunately this backfires as Mr. Poole brings her home and is treated like a hero. So, Annie decides to suddenly become “cured”. Her mother pretends that she has healed her but later that night in private, she is angry that Annie pulled that stunt on her. Annie is just happy she can now act as clever as she likes.
As the weeks pass, people begin flocking to Annie's mom for her miracle workings. Annie decides to enroll in school so she can be closer to Sammy. On her first day at school, Annie gets in trouble because some kids were taunting her and she fought back. To get out of detention, Annie pretends to faint and is allowed to go home. The school principle, Mrs. Newman, thinks that Annie was just playing truant and Annie lies her way out of getting in trouble. Later Mrs. Newman tells Annie that she knows that Annie is clever and that likely her mother has been using her in some way to heighten business.
Annie rises quickly to the top of her class at school. One day, she notices Mrs. Newman pick up the waif of a girl that Annie sometimes sees around town and bring her to school. Mrs. Newman gives the girl her own shoes so that the girl can enter school with dignity. Later, Annie collects some of her old clothes to donate. She learns that the girl's name is Helen. She makes friends with some silly girls who believe that she's a clairvoyant-in-training and they invite her to sleepover at their house and perform another seance for them. Annie's mom is furious when the gossip mills start whispering that Annie has inherited her mother's talents. Annie's mom is afraid that Annie's carelessness will get them in trouble.
At school, Sammy thinks Annie has the gift of clairvoyance and wishes he could be around when she does the seances. Annie feels frustrated that she has to lie about herself in front of Sammy, too, a boy she's grown to really like. Annie is surprised and pleased when Sammy kisses her. While in detention one day, Annie finds herself alone with Helen. She learns that Helen's crazy father also scams his customers with tonics that don't actually have healing powers. Helen tells Annie that one day she plans on running away and seeing the world.
One day, Annie's mother decides to make a dramatic debut with all the prominent and wealthy people of Peach Hill. Mr. Poole arranges for Annie's mother to host a seance that will impress all these people and clinch her reputation as a miracle worker. Annie is afraid that her mom will attract too much attention and get them in trouble but her mom insists on doing it. The seance is almost ruined when one of the girls pretends her mother is dead in order to trap Annie's mother into revealing she's a fraud. Luckily, Annie and her mother manage to smooth things over. After the seance, however, Mr. Poole tells Annie that he knows she and her mother are frauds but he won't tell anyone as long as they agree to work for him. He tells Annie that he has plans to rake in the big bucks with their scam. Later, Annie and Helen sneak into Mr. Poole's house and find out that he's sold all his things and he's only pretending to be wealthy. Before they can escape with this knowledge, they are caught by the town police officer. Annie's mother has to charm the officer into letting Annie go but Annie has to pretend to become an imbecile again.
Annie realizes she's effectively made herself her mother's slave again by pretending to be an imbecile. Mrs. Newman comes searching for her and even Sammy comes looking for her and she has to humiliate herself by drooling and acting dimwitted in front of them in order to save her mother's reputation. To make matters worse, her mother wants to perform another public miracle healing. Annie is tired to pretending all her life. Annie finally agrees, having been guilt-tripped into performing this one last act. At the miracle healing, however, Mr. Poole brings a cameraman. Annie and her mother flee the scene as they know that once photos of her mother are published, the authorities will be after her. Annie stays behind to smooth down the situation, pretending that her mother had used up all her powers to heal her and now needs to rest for an extended period of time. Sammy is very impressed that Annie has been healed again. Annie decides to tell him the truth - that she and her mother are scammers. Sammy is disappointed but Annie hopes they can still be friends.
The story ends with Annie's mom having to leave Peach Hill for a while. Annie will stay in Peach Hill and continue her studies and will hopefully stop getting involved in her mother's schemes.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like how the story features a mother and daughter team of con-artist-clairvoyants. It's a unique perspective for a story. The story was also written in a very quirky and witty manner that made for a quick and amusing read.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was in the beginning, when Annie first sees Sammy and drops her act of being imbecilic in order to just stare at his handsome features. I thought it was funny that Helen spotted her and knew immediately what she was up to since she also comes from a family that likes to con others, too.
Opinion about the main character:
Annie is very likable because she's clever, humorous, quick-thinking and quite ingenious in coming up with ways to lie her way out of a sticky situation. I also like that she kind of lives in her own world and does not qualm to display herself as an imbecile if that's what it takes to earn a living. When she was pretending to be an imbecile she was laughing at the foolishness of the townsfolk who pitied her or looked down on her but completely believed she was dimwitted and didn't bother censoring their private discussions in front of her.