Posts Tagged With: mystery

The Good Neighbors: Kin

by Holly Black & Ted Naifeh

Rue doesn’t worry about anything. That is, she never used to. But now that her mom has disappeared and her dad has been charged with murdering one of his students, she’s starting to look critically at the world around her. Why does she see things no one else can? What’s with all the vines that seem to be encasing all the buildings in her city? Was her mom a crazy person or was she something else entirely? And, most importantly, what does all of this have to do with Rue? A murder mystery, complete with faeries.

As with all graphic novels, the illustrations are the most important part of the book. If the drawings don’t match the story, I usually put the book down after the first page. Naifeh’s art was excellent for this book. They make it easy to tell who is who, what is happening, and what everyone is feeling. The backgrounds are detailed enough to provide a clear setting, but not so detailed that they became distracting. Naifeh’s style fits the story really well, enhancing its dark atmosphere and making the world and characters more full and vivid than they would have been if this was just a novel. Also, there are quite a few characters of colour, which is something I wish I didn’t have to applaud, but very few graphic novels include such a realistically diverse cast of characters. So, bravo to Naifeh for doing it right.

The story is compelling enough, if not entirely original. I don’t really care about Rue very much but I am curious about where the story is going. The side characters are developed to the same level as Rue and have problems of their own, which opens up a lot of options for side stories that may become more central in the next two books. The writing is opaque enough to stir curiosity, but not so unclear as to confuse readers or (in my case) cause irritability. Overall, I like the dark urban supernatural mystery Black & Naifeh create together, and I’d read on.

Recommended for fans of Holly Black, faery stories, urban fantasy, and stories with angsty teens finding out they have magical lineage. A pretty dark read with none of the love-at-first-sight supernatural romance fluff found in so many other faery stories. If romance blossoms in later books, it will be of the gritty variety.

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The Amulet of Samarkand: A Bartimaeus Graphic Novel

adapted by Jonathan Stroud & Andrew Donkin, ill. Lee Sullivan & Nicolas Chapuis

A young magician’s apprentice summons more than he bargained for when he invokes an ancient demon named Bartimaeus to do his bidding. All Nicholas wants is a bit of revenge after the upstart magician Simon Lovelace humiliates him in front of a crowd of accomplished magicians. He orders Bartimaeus to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from Lovelace, despite the demon’s warnings that Nicholas is dealing with magic beyond his capabilities. His plot to humiliate Lovelace spins out of control as he uncovers too much about the magician and becomes a target of his wrath.

The illustrations are fantastic. They are consistent, with enough detail to recognize all the characters and interpret their expressions, but not so much detail that the frames become cluttered. On the illustration front, this graphic novel gets top marks. On the story front, it gets props for concept but this adaptation seems to leave out too much for it to be a satisfying fantasy/mystery. There is a group of anti-magicians whose story I would like to see more of, and I would like to have had more of an explanation of the motives and backgrounds of Lovelace and his accomplices. This comic is a good advertisement for the book, but on its own it lacks the necessary substance to be a great story.

Recommended for anyone who thinks they might want to read the Bartimaeus trilogy but doesn’t want to put the time in to try reading the novel. It may be enjoyable for those who read the novel before and would like to revisit the story without having to re-read the book. Vocabulary and some dark concepts more suitable for older kids and teens.

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Shadow Children: Among the Hidden

by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Luke has always been in hiding. He is a “shadow child,” a child born to a family that already has two children. Ever since the food crisis that started before Luke was born, the government has made it illegal to have more than two children. For Luke, that means staying hidden or risking being put to death.

His life is already limited, but when the government starts cutting down the woods that surround his home in order to make way for a new housing development, Luke can’t even go outside anymore. When he realizes that one of the new families on the block also has a third child, he has to decide how much he is willing to risk for some companionship and, ultimately, for his freedom.

This is the first book in the Shadow Children series. Like Haddix’s Missing series, this one has a lot of intrigue and suspense. I read up to the fourth or fifth book in the series and quit. The story is compelling enough and I got more than halfway through the series before the logic/common sense gaps in the story got too annoying for me.

Not for super-sensitive readers, since it is basically a story about a government that hunts and kills children, but kids who like stories of spies and intrigue will most likely enjoy it.

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Airhead

by Meg Cabot

Emerson Watts–tomboy, computer nerd, and anti-materialist–gets into a horrible accident at the opening of a new Stark super-mall and has her brain transplanted into the body of popular 17-year-old model Nikki Howard, who collapsed at the mall after suffering a brain aneurism. The only reason this top secret, highly expensive surgery was performed was because Nikki was the spokesperson for evil company Stark, and they want Emerson to fulfill the rest of Nikki’s contract in Nikki’s body. Emerson just wants her old life back, and wants to get the attention of her best friend Christopher, but if she reveals who she really is, her parents will have to pay millions in fines to cover the surgery and the contract.

The story is pretty annoyingly written in that conversational “adult writing like a teen” voice, but it’s funny enough and presents some interesting social issues (in between all the drama about gorgeous boys falling for Emerson-as-Nikki).

It’s a clean enough book for tweens who are into chicklit but aren’t ready for the heavy petting aspect of the genre. Also a nice amount of mystery. It’s the first of a series.

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The Night Tourist

by Katherine Marsh

In the New York underworld live all the ghosts of those who have died in NYC. At least, they’re still there until they resolve all their issues and move on. Jack has not moved on. In fact, Jack didn’t even die when he got hit by that car. Even though he’s not dead, he can see dead people. That’s how he meets Euri, a ghost girl about his age who leads him to the underworld. He enlists her help to find his mother, who died in New York years ago. The living are not welcome in the underworld, though, so Jack and Euri must conduct their search while being hunted by a three-headed hellhound who wants to tear Jack to pieces. On top of all of this, Jack can only stay in the underworld for three days before he loses the ability to return to the land of the living.

This book is full of mysteries, like, Just who is this Euri? Why is she helping Jack? Why does Jack share some abilities with dead people? Did he really die in that accident? And why don’t the dates on his mother’s death records match up?

This is a cool mystery for kids who are into Greek mythology. It has a balanced amount of suspense, action, and character development, and is also obviously written by somebody who knows their stuff. A good one for older kids suffering Percy Jackson withdrawal.

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