Friday, November 6, 2009


Paper Towns by John Green -- On the cusp of graduation, Quentin finds himself pulled into an adventure with his childhood crush, the beautiful and popular Margo Roth Spiegelman. But the real adventure doesn't begin until the next morning when Margo goes missing. This YA book turns quickly into a race against the clock to figure out Margo's cryptic clues and find her before she misses graduation -- or worse. The likability of the narrator is a huge plus for Green's novel, which was voted best of 2008 by teens in a YALSA poll. The mystery of the book is also gripping and carefully wrought; it's fun as a reader to try to figure out the clues along with Quentin ("Q") and his friends. Though the book clearly focuses on graduation and coming-of-age issues, it does so in a way that seems real and honest; so often, this topic can become trite in YA fiction. The biggest drawback to the story is Margo herself -- the more you learn about her, the less you find yourself caring what happens to her except in how it will affect Q and his future. Fans of this novel may also enjoy The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Final Verdict: ***

Maisie Dobbs and Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear -- These two titles comprise the beginning of what has become a very popular new mystery series. Maisie Dobbs, who bills herself as a psychologist as well as a private investigator, takes on the responsibility of heading up her own detective agency when her former boss and mentor goes into retirement. In the first book of the series, we follow Maisie through the difficulties of establishing her new business in the hustle and bustle of late 1920s London and as she solves her first case, which involves shell shocked soldiers in the aftermath of WWI. In the second title, Maisie has become a highly successful detective and is hired by a wealthy businessman to investigate the disappearance of his only daughter. Maisie, a nurse during "The Great War," fights her own personal demons as she works to solve crimes. Both novels show Maisie to be a young woman who is just as interested in helping her clients to resolve underlying family tensions and personal issues as she is in finding lost property or solving a murder. The stories are light and quick to read and provide an insight into the history of early Depression-era London. As she continues to work on this series, Winspear would be better served by a new editor, as these books can be riddled with errors in conventions.
Final Verdict: ***

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