Here are some shorter musings some recent MG reads.
Bounce by Megan Shull
This book is a fun spin on the old wish-for-a-different-life Christmas story. Frannie is having the worst Christmas ever when her parents decide to take off for the holiday and her brother and sister throw a major party in the house. Frannie wishes for a new family. When she wakes up, she's living someone else's life. And then it keeps happening. Christmas day over and over as someone else each time. The novel is fast paced and during her adventures Frannie faces her fears and becomes a little less afraid of the world. I think I would have liked this book more if I felt Frannie's character were better developed. I found myself far more invested in the girls whose lives she inhabited than I did her even at the end. As a mother, I found her parents to be the absolute worst as well.
The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley
This is a good, entertaining mystery for MG readers. It has a lot of history about Harlem in it and a diverse cast of characters. As many mysteries do, this has a lot of info dumps. They are not handled with the strategic finesse I expect from really good mystery writers though and the writing feels clunky as a result. There is a lot of adults bearing their secrets to middle schoolers and yet not interfering with the dangerous investigation they have undertaken alone. It has a fast paced plot and I really appreciated how the friendship angle was handled. This is a great one to have on hand for mystery lovers.
The Memory Thief by Bryce Moore
This is an adventurous sibling tale about twins whose parents are on the brink of divorce. They visit a fair where they run into a nefarious Memory Thief who steals all of Kelly's memories of her twin Bryce. She doesn't know who he is and she is mean and nasty about it. Bryce desperately wants his sister back and becomes a Memory Thief himself in order to restore her memories of him. The action is fast paced and I can definitely see kid readers liking this one. I thought it could use a little better pacing and closure at the end. (The end is very rushed.) It is an interesting look at people, motivations, assumptions, and secrets.
The Secret of Goldenrod by Jane O'Reilly
WARNING: This review is spoiler-ish.
The sentence level writing in this book is good and the characters are also memorable. My reasons for not clicking with the book are more about my expectations as a reader, which I would ordinarily say was my own fault. However, in this case the author intentionally messes with those expectations. Girl moves to a spooky house where strange things happen, no one has been able to live in, all the town's people are afraid of, and as a reader you sit back and wait for the ghosts and the stories of murder and anguish in the house. The author built that expectation up beautifully. Then the doll in a doll house in a hidden room behind a mirror comes to life. And talks. I mean, COME ON. Creepy stuff right around the corner. Right? Clearly the doll is going to be bad news. Again the author builds on that expectation and keeps the reader in a heightened sense of suspense. And....NOTHING HAPPENS. The girl plays with the doll. She learns lessons about friendship. And kind of sort of deals with her mom issues. (Her mom left her, because it's a MG book.) Everyone gets a happy ending. Over 300 pages and that's it. I ended the book with a huge sense of betrayal and more than a little annoyed at the author.