What is it with kids wanting to solve mysteries? Maybe a warning should be added to the list of tried and true parental instructions: 1. Don’t talk to strangers. 2. Don’t investigate disappearances, burglaries or murders without adult supervision…
Of course, this has been a popular device for ages. But this summer alone we have Pigeon English, 7th Sigma… and a new Flavia de Luce novel is on its way.
Lesley Kagen’s latest novel picks up one year after the events of Whistling in the Dark (NAL, 2007), in which young Sally barely escaped from a murderer. (For more, see the author’s website.) However, for all the praise garnered by Whistling in the Dark, Good Graces more than lives up to its predecessor. It also stands alone.
By the way, Kagen’s 2010 novel, Tomorrow River, is also about a pair of sisters, and likely to appeal to teen readers.
Adult/High School–Eleven year-old Sally O’Malley made a deathbed promise to her Daddy three years ago that she would watch over her ten-year-old sister, Troo. That was no small promise. Irrepressible Troo chases trouble with a vigor matched only by Sally’s “overactive imagination,” which Sally’s mother treats with cod liver oil. Over the course of the summer of 1960, the girls encounter mysteries surrounding the disappearance of a neighbor boy, the persistent threat of a cat burglar, the possible attempted murder of an elderly lady, and sinister doings at the rectory of the Mother of Good Hope Church. As Sally tells the story, readers are treated to the ferocity of her concern for her feckless sister, as well as the intricate politics and romances of a tight Milwaukee neighborhood. Kagen gives Sally’s narration a rambling, on-and-off-topic charm, imbued with the half-understandings of a young girl who struggles to make sense of her world. Many young adult novels feature this stream of consciousness narration (think of a young Georgia Nicholson), so teens who like offbeat riffs in language will be enchanted by Sally O’Malley. Throughout the book, Sally refers to terrible events that happened the previous summer, which comprise Kagen’s 2007 novel, Whistling in the Dark.–Diane Colson, New Port Richey Public Library, FL