Sunday, May 1, 2016

Young & Yang Mysteries, Book 1 - The Wig in the Window

I suppose I have been very fortunate when picking out new series books to try.  It seems lately, most of the new series I've plucked off the shelves have been rather enjoyable (with only a few exceptions).  The Wig in the Window is definitely one I enjoyed.

This is Kristen Kittscher's first book, and it's clear that she knows children (I guess the fact that she was a middle-school teacher might have helped on that end).  The two main characters, Sophie Young and Grace Yang, are very typical middle-schoolers, with all the problems that children of that age face - homework, parents, bullies, tattle-tales, and adults that put little stock in the stories they tell.  So, it should come as no surprise that when Sophie and Grace are witness to a very unusual scene at the home of one of their school counselors, no one believes them.  It then falls on the two girls - Young and Yang - to uncover the truth behind Dr. Agford's strange behavior and reveal the secrets that she is hiding from the school and all those around her.

The story is told in first-person point-of-view, from the perspective of Sophie Young.  She is insecure, she has her own idiosyncrasies (such as her penchant for all things feng shui), and she has her ups and downs with her best friend, Grace.  While she enjoys their little spy missions, she gradually realizes that while Grace plans out all the missions, it seems Sophie is the one taking all the risks - particularly when they witness what appears to be a murder, and Dr. Agford is the killer!  However, when Sophie calls 9-1-1, she finds that everything is not always what it seems.

The police only find a kitchen covered in beet stains (where Dr. Agford makes her annual batch of beet juice to hand out to everyone).

Dr. Agford becomes overly concerned for Sophie's well-being and insists on having daily sessions in the counselor's office at school.

Her parents ground her and forbid her from hanging out with Grace.

Sophie finds herself a social outcast at school, forced to sit with the only other outcast, Trista Bottoms.

Even worse, Sophie finds herself the target of the girls of S.M.I.L.E., Dr. Agford's little groupies who will do anything and everything to please the counselor.

But none of that stops Sophie.  She and Grace know there is something strange going on, and Dr. Agford's growing nervousness and actions to silence the two girls only proves that they are on to something.  Sneaking out in the middle of the night, breaking into Dr. Agford's house to look for evidence, and even teaming up with Trista to find clues, lead the girls to not only working hand-in-hand with a rather unusual F.B.I. agent (or so she claims), but to discover some rather startling secrets about Dr. Agford that they never expected.

Truly, with this book, the reader beware - nothing is ever as it truly seems!

Kittscher provides a very satisfying conclusion to the mystery, taking the reader on a roller-coaster ride that is Sophie's life.  Believable characters, plenty of action and sneaking around, and twists-and-turns that will keep the reader guessing right along with Sophie.  And, once again, at 346 pages, Harper Collins (publisher) and Kittscher prove that a full-length, fleshed-out novel can make for good reading and be successful (at least, enough to warrant a second book - The Tiara on the Terrace), thus defeating Simon & Schuster's unsubstantiated belief that the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books cannot be more than 120 - 140 pages, since "children don't have the attention span to read books longer than that."  Pffft.  There are too many books, such as this, that would prove otherwise.

RATING:  10 flying wigs out of 10 for mystery, excitement, and danger, as well as homework, detention and counseling!

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