Over at her blog, Barrie Summy writes that when she was ten years old, she wanted to be Carolyn Keene. Actually, first she was crazy about Nancy Drew and then she wanted to meet Carolyn Keene, and then she wanted to be Carolyn Keene. So I imagine it feels pretty darn fantastic to be a few months away from the release of her first Middle Grade mystery, I So Don’t Do Mysteries. Dream-come-true fantastic, I’ll bet.
I was completely delighted to learn that Barrie left me my own ARC of her book during a recent visit to The Flying Dragon Bookshop. So thoughtful. BTW, any other authors out there who feel like doing the same, please feel free! ; ) When I heard the news, I scurried up to the store, said a quick hello, snatched my copy from behind the cash and started reading right away on the bus ride home. Being a kidlit blogger rocks.
Straight off, let me say that I hope that Barrie gives us more than two mysteries starring Sherry (Sherlock) Holmes Baldwin. This book was SO much fun. Right at this second, I can think of at least ten grade 6 girls who would gobble it up in a single sitting and then come running back wanting to know how long till the next one. There’s a meaty mystery plot with a crazy supernatural twist, a little romance, a lot of laughs and great writing. Got all that? Sorry you need to wait until December to read it.
Sherry Holmes Baldwin wants what most teenage girls want – to hang out with her BFF Junie at the mall on spring break and see if she can snag a little alone time with her current cutie crush. Too bad her supercop mother, who just happens to be a ghost, needs Sherry’s help to solve a mystery so that she won’t flunk out of the Academy of Spirits and lose contact with Sherry for ever. Add in the fact that Sherry’s dad is about to marry her math teacher, aka “The Ruler”, and that Sherry needs to keep the whole “my mother is a ghost and my dead grandfather is now taking the form of a wren” story completely secret, and you know things are going to get complicated before they get simple.
I think it must be pretty challenging to achieve the right tone with this premise. Too light, and it would seem unbelievable, given that Sherry has lost her mother in a drug bust gone wrong. Too heavy and it would jeopardize the momentum of the story and start to feel like a schlocky made-for-TV movie. I think that Barrie Summy gets it just right. Her book feels like a wild romp, with just enough poignancy at the right moments to make it believable and honest and rooted in a real girl’s experience.
Sherry is an awesome character. She’s a little vulnerable, but ultimately gutsy. In some respects, she’s totally ordinary, and in other ways, fearless and fast-thinking. Never too girly, never too tough, she’s exactly the sort of sleuth I think a lot of tween/teen girls will identify with. Another major point in this book’s favour is the mystery plot itself. I’m not someone who tries to figure out whodunnit as I read a mystery, so if I can see the outcome without even trying, then I’d say things are way too obvious. Not so with this story. There are just enough red-herrings dangled along the way to keep readers guessing right to the end. As mentioned earlier, there are laughs aplenty too. The supernatural element offers ample opportunity for chuckles along the way. You’ll be sure to love Grandpa Wilhelm (aka the wacky wren) as much as I did.
If you’re after a mystery with a heroine who’s got plenty of gumption (even though she might not know it), a few ghostly sidekicks, and otherwise an entirely normal teenage life, then look no further than Barrie Summy’s I So Don’t Do Mysteries. Check out Barrie at Class of 2k8. Her book is available December 2009.