Thursday, June 15, 2017

The impossible clue by Sarah Rubin

Alice Jones doesn't really have any friends at school. She's fine with that. She'd rather help her journalist father investigate things and think about mathematical theorems in her spare time than hang out with weird Sammy or Kevin (she's pretty sure he just wants her to do his homework). In fact, she's so good at solving problems that her classmates come to her for help in solving minor mysteries.

But then Sammy shows up with a real mystery - not just mysterious sounds in his attic (turned out to be squirrels) but a disappearing scientist, invention of an invisibility suit, and missing clues and codes galore. Alice is at first reluctant to help. She doesn't need Sammy hanging around any more than he already is and she's got enough going on with the arrival of her twin sister for a visit (oh yeah, her parents are divorced and Della lives with their mom in New York) and her plans for a relaxing summer vacation of visiting museums and doing science experiments.

But then Sammy's dad, Mr. Delgado, hires Alice to investigate - making it pretty clear that he's just using her as a distraction. Nobody uses Alice Jones and she is on the case! As things get more dangerous and more confusing though, Alice may discover this is one mystery she can't solve.

I'm working hard on reading more middle grade and this book absolutely won me over. At first, it was hard to get to like Alice who is a prickly, odd character. But as she learned more about other people and expanded her knowledge to include relationships as well as math and mysteries, she gradually becomes a more sympathetic character. I loved the relationship between Della and her sister, which went from antagonistic to admitting that they loved each other but were both very different people. Kevin and Sammy's obvious crushes mildly amused me as well, especially since Alice doesn't suddenly change personality at the end of the book and return Kevin's interest (unless you count her agreeing to tutor him in math, as long as he actually makes an effort). The mystery was realistic enough to intrigue readers with just that hint of implausibility needed for young detectives.

Verdict: This is a perfect fit for my young mystery lovers, say about 3rd-5th grade. Just enough suspense, drama, and clues to meet their requirements without any of the blood, gore, or terror that will turn them (or their parents) off. I loved the strong character of Alice, who stays true to herself while still growing as a character. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780545940252; This edition published 2017 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

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