John here: Last year, I highlighted the books nominated for the Edgar in the YA and Juvenile categories. I read all ten and got both winners right. Can I do that two years in a row? We shall see. Here are the nominees for 2013 (an editorial comment-I’m really saddened that Freaks Like Us and Blind Spot weren’t nominated).
Fake Mustache: Or, How Jodie O’Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind by Tom Angleberger (Abrams – Amulet Books)
13 Hangmen by Art Corriveau (Abrams – Amulet Books)
The Quick Fix by Jack D. Ferraiolo (Abrams – Amulet Books)
Spy School by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage (Penguin Young Readers Group – Dial Books for Young Readers)
Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things by Kathryn Burak (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group – Roaring Brook Press)
The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George (Penguin Young Readers Group – Viking)
Crusher by Niall Leonard (Random House Children’s Books – Delacorte BFYR)
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield (Penguin Young Readers Group – Dutton Children’s Books)
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Disney Publishing Worldwide – Hyperion)
I’ve purchased all of them for the Hartland Public Library and am pleased to say teens are already reading a couple of them. I finished Crusher this morning and have to say that the other four books will have to scramble big time to top it for grittiness and dandy plot twists. It’s a very mature teen read with language and violence that are quite significant, but integral to the plot. Those elements aren’t over the top in terms of what they see and what, sadly, some experience first hand. I think they will give it strong crossover appeal into the world of adult mystery readers. I pretty much read it in a couple sittings.
Here’s a summary: The story opens with Finn Maguire letting his down and out dad, an actor turned destitute would-be writer, into their house late one evening after he loses his keys. You get a quick stream of consciousness intro to Finn’s lack of education, minor criminal record and his relationship with his father. The scene shifts to him at his lousy counter service job in a fast food place where he hates the job and the boss. Enter Zoe, a mysterious teen who he has to ask to buy something else or leave the restaurant by his beyond jerk boss (think Dilbert’s pointy-head boss with an English accent). She blows him off and leaves. You also learn that Finn is an amateur boxer who loves to run and feels he’s behind the eight ball thanks to his criminal record, dyslexia and lack of education. Finn, however, is anything but dumb.
When he returns home that evening, he notices things are amiss before he even sets foot inside. When he does, he finds his dad at his desk, the back of his head bashed in with the acting statue he won years before. One of the cops first on the scene is a cynical, heavyset sergeant named Prendergast who makes it clear he thinks Finn killed his dad. Once out of interrogation, Finn decides to do some investigation on his own. He visits the pub his dad frequented to see what his drinking buddies might know that could have gotten dad killed. They are very sympathetic at first, but as he starts to dig into the possibility that a local gangster with legendary abilities when it comes to avoiding arrest, might have been the subject of his father’s latest writing project everyone suddenly seems to have someplace else to go.
Add in a female social worker who isn’t who she seems, Finn’s foolhardy attempt to penetrate the estate of McGovern, the gangster, what happens that gets him a meeting with the man and a job offer, how Zoe reenters the picture along with some really evil folks, some of whom Finn thought were trustworthy and you have a story with enough twists to make a pretzel envious. Niall Leonard has written a dandy first book. It kept me engrossed, had me guessing and not once did I roll my eyes at something poorly done. Granted, this is the first of the lot I’ve read, but the others are going to have to be pretty riveting to beat out Crusher. I’ll continue sharing my thoughts as I read the remaining nominees. Thus far only three Maine libraries have copies: Hartland, Lewiston and South Portland…A pity.