Friday, November 16, 2012

Sammy Keyes and the Night of the Skulls by Wendelin Van Draanen is another long series that I have thoroughly enjoyed.  The first book in the series, Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief,  is actually my least favorite.  Ms Van Draanen had a little difficulty settling into the characters.  But by the second book, things were off and running. So if you want to start the series, know that it is worth plowing through the first one to get to the others. The premise is that Sammy is an early teen (preteen in the first book) who lives with her grandmother in a senior high rise.  The fact that she lives there has to remain a secret because the place is government subsidized for seniors only.  Sammy has to sneak up and down the fire escape, sleep on the couch, and hide all her stuff so anyone visiting during the day won't suspect.  Sammy is a modern Nancy Drew.  Somehow she manages to get involved with one major criminal investigation after another.  Like Nancy Drew she has a cast of friends that help her with her cases.  A nice thing about the books, is that Ms Van Draanen uses the stories to take on interesting social and ethical questions.  In this one Sammy and her friends take a short cut through a grave yard on Halloween night and come across a grave robber.  During the adventure Sammy becomes acquainted with different cultural traditions surrounding death, like the Mexican Day of the Dead and Brazilian Day of Skulls.  It is a side theme, and Ms Van Draanen is good about not making the "morals" heavy handed, but just having them develop naturally with the plot.  The books have fun adventure, snappy dialog and interesting mysteries.  I do have to put in a caveat.  About half way through the series, Sammy acquires a boyfriend.  They don't do anything but an occasional hug or kiss, but 13 is pretty young, in my opinion, for even that level of intimacy. (304 p.)

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