Locked Inside

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Published by: Originally published by Penguin; current edition by Nancy Werlin
Release Date: 1999, 2021
Pages: 272



Finalist for the Edgar award.

As the orphaned daughter of a wildly successful inspirational singer/author, Marnie Skyedottir stands to inherit great wealth. But until then, Marnie has to survive a dreary life in private school. She endures by escaping into an online role-playing game as much as possible and steering clear of the other students.

So when Marnie is kidnapped by someone who also claims to be Skye's daughter, she is worried. With her reclusive tendencies, will anyone even know she's gone? And will her online gaming skills be of any help to her in this real-life drama.

Cover art by Rowan MacColl.



Completely, totally, and fiercely, I love Marnie Skyedottir, the protagonist of Locked Inside. While I was writing this novel, whenever Marnie would do something particularly Marnie-like, I'd jump up from my desk chair and dance around. Oh, or cry.

So if anyone dares dislike my Marnie, or wishes her ill in any way, be warned: I shall push you down the airshaft into the Lair of the Rubble-Eater, where you will meet a terrible fate. (See book.) And there'll be no Elf to be your companion. And— worst of all—no Yertle. Take that! Ha!

That is all I have to say. Carry on.

Add on Goodreads


“A compelling thriller . . . This one will gain readers by word of mouth.”

“Intelligent, reflective adolescent characters and gripping suspense.”

“A meaty tale of self-discovery . . . A thriller for thoughtful readers.”

“Entertaining adventure aplenty . . . postmodern romance at its finest.”
The Bulletin

“Another fresh and engrossing thriller with psychological depth underlying its clever plot twists.”

  • Finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery published in 2000
  • Texas Lone Star reading list, 2001-2002
  • Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award master list, 2003-2004
  • South Carolina Young Adult Book Award list, 2002-2003
  • Indiana Young Hoosiers Book Award List, 2003-2004
  • A Capitol Choice Noteworthy Book for Children, 2000
  • Pennsylvania Young Adult recommended list, 2004-2005


PDF Discussion Guide

This year, eleventh grade, was Marnie’s fifth year of boarding school, but she had never become accustomed to the communal meals. It wasn’t the food – if there wasn’t something edible served, you could always have salad or toast with peanut butter. No, it was all the people. There was always someone looking at her, even after all this time at the school. People never stopped looking, covertly, at Skye’s daughter. Marnie used to wonder what they were hoping to see. That had been one reason why, at fourteen, she’d chopped off most of her hair and then bleached the rest white as dandelion fluff. With the careful half-inch of dark at the roots, it screamed fake. Marnie loved it. It gave the gawkers something real to talk about; something that was her choice. On top of that, any time she got really scared, really shy, she’d paint huge circles of black eyeliner around her eyes. If she also put on her favorite neon pink T-shirt – far more noticeable than black – and her entire collection of heavy silver rings and chains, she could face just about anyone.

Marnie’s first boarding school – her first school, in fact, because before that Skye had taught Marnie at home – had been a bigger, coed institution, with a cafeteria. Marnie had looked ordinary then, except for the shocking resemblance to Skye. In that cafeteria, she had had to walk through the press of tables that were full of other kids, teachers, and the occasional headmaster or dean before she could finally get in line with a tray. She’d felt everyone watching her back while she went through the line. Then, when she’d finally emerged with food, she’d had to turn and survey the sea of faces again, looking for a table at which she could reasonably sit and eat.

It didn’t help that there were at least a dozen other "celebrity" kids at that first school. Their parents were famous actors or corporate titans or rock stars. Whereas Skye was an ex-gospel singer who’d started her own . . . well, some said it was practically a religion. Suffice it to say that Skye was not the same kind of celebrity parent that those other kids had.

Strange, was what the other kids called Marnie. Maybe it was true. Marnie suspected that there was more to strangeness than the dictionary would have you think. As Skye had often said, If you want things to be simple, sweetheart, you should go ahead and end it all right now. Which was not typical advice, Marnie now knew, to give to your daughter when she – for example – complained about long division.