Here it is, the first book I'll be reviewing for my 20 in 2009 challenge.
Sammy Keyes and the Sisters of Mercy
by Wendelin Van Draanen
Quite a few of the Middle-grade series mysteries are so plot-focused that character development and language seem to be on auto pilot. And perhaps that's the nature of a mystery series. Readers don't want to savor the language or delve deep into the psyche of the characters, they just want to turn the page to find out who dun it.
But important as it is, plot alone doesn't keep me reading. I want to know how the characters feel and think--besides just about solving the crime. I seek to make connections, find beauty, and be surprised by truth presented in a new way in any book I read, thrillers, mystery, literary.
In my mind, the Sammy Keyes mystery series stand out. The plots are interesting, as expected, as are the sub-plots. But more important is that Sammy is a fully-fleshed, likable, growing character. It's no wonder these books have either won the Edgar award or been finalists.
In The Sisters of Mercy, we even get a glimpse of many of the secondary characters. The author doesn't waste a lot of ink to describe each one, but what she chooses to highlight does a great job in showing us who these people are.
My middle-grade novel has a strong mystery element. I've even gone so far as to call it a mystery in a contest I entered. But I'm not sure if I wish to align my book with the all-plot mysteries. But as I wrote in an earlier review of Chasing Vermeer, perhaps a book doesn't need to be all-plot to be considered a mystery. Chasing Vermeer isn't, and while the Sammy Keyes books is more like a traditional mystery, they have a lot more than just plot. It's a mystery with heart and soul and flesh.