Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How to Spy on the Neighbors AKA The Wig in the Window

"Never underestimate Nerds." "I wouldn't dream of it, nerd
Kittscher, Kristen. Wig in the Window, The. HarperCollins Children's Books, 2013. 368p. $16.99, 9780062110503.

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Genre:Mystery (real and not real)
Cover Appeal: A good representation of the girl's personalities. Youngish with the character's drawn more cartoonish than graphic. Will appeal to 4th and 5th and some early 6th graders.

Immediately After
"I'm like...Mr. Miyagi and Yoda rolled into one." Michael Scott, The Office (substitute this book is for I'm)
Right Before
Grace is all about the spy business. She's got the clothes and the lingo down. Sophie considers herself more of a shy-retiring type who needs Grace to bring a little action into her life. The girls have upped their spying game by sneaking out of the house at night and investigating FBI bulletins, pretending that the people in the neighborhood represent wanted criminals and are just hiding out in their town.

Things take a turn towards the serious when they accuse someone of murder and then find themselves being watched. To Sophie's horror, she also now has to spend MORE time with the suspect. Resentment starts eating away her and Grace's friendship.

Were they ever true friends or was she just someone Grace used and pitied?
I was drawn in by Sophie and Grace's quick banter. They seemed to know and love each other. There was lots of eye-rolling and compromise. Just like a normal friendship. Using the Walkie Talkies gave them an additional sense of being connected even though Grace was homeschooled, so didn't share in Sophie's daytime world.

The friendship gets strained when Sophie finds a new friend in Trista. Even though Grace has friends from Chinese school and piano lessons, she's never had to compete for Sophie's attention. Soon Trista has Sophie questioning herself and Grace's relationship. Not as a way to get Sophie to herself though. She just calls it as she sees it.

Sometime After
The mystery, a little gruesome and over the top, was well-developed but didn't seem like the heart of the story. That was the girl's friendship. As such, I was baffled by how much the parent's trusted Dr. Agford, the school counselor. I understand that they were stressed at work, but the strong girl characters we were getting to know, should have stemmed from loving, concerned, and involved parents. Sophie's parents didn't even pretend to listen to her side of the story and they never confiscated her spy equipment, not even the rope she'd used to climb out the window. While Grace's homeschool teacher conveniently leaves the picture, meaning Grace could be at home alone during the day.

On the mystery-side, I was able to follow along with Sophie and Grace's spy work and uncover the culprit but I liked that Kittscher threw in a couple of red herrings. Though I guessed the identity of the white truck owner, it took some doing to figure out rest. 

Fun Quotes
"At one point she went after the school librarian. The librarian! Could there be a more noble soul?"

"...on the bright side, our school counselor is not a fugitive."

"If I'd known dropping teeth into drinks could so effectively remove Jake from my presence, I would have made it a more regular practice."

It was refreshing to read a book about two twelve-year-old girls who sounded like two twelve-year-olds. Many middle grade novels make the characters sound too young while the young adult books cast them as precocious. When Grace joked that Sophie and her should trade families, I laughed because my daughter has a friend who's similar to me and they joke about trading all the time.

I give this 4 out of 5 stars for the mystery and the realistic portrayal. It lost a star due to the lack of parenting. Though the SMILE organization almost brings it back to the top, the confusing love interest struck me as unneeded and brings it back down to 4. 

Tune in tomorrow when Kristen Kittscher guest stars on The Brain Lair!

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