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With this debut book of a new mystery series, Wendelin Van Draanen establishes Samantha Keyes as a crime fighter to watch. Though, actually, the book opens with Sammy watching…a crime in progress. And when the man with the wad of cash in one hand and the open purse in the other catches Sammy watching him, the chase is on—but is Sammy on the trail of the thief, or is he on hers? If the police don’t believe Sammy’s story about a thief with black gloves, black glasses, and a black beard, she isn’t too surprised. Vice principal Caan didn’t exactly believe her either when she explained that she couldn’t possibly have broken Heather’s nose. Well, Sammy’s not putting up with this. Does she look like a liar? She knows what she saw and how hard she can hit. And somehow she’s going to prove it.
Sammy Keyes has three wads of cold hard cash in her hot little hands. An old guy gave them to her. Well, actually, he told her to throw them away. Begged her. With his last dying breath. Which he was taking because Sammy had just scared the life right out of him. So…she’s got to get this man some help. She’s got to do it without being seen herself. And she’s got to figure out how to stash that cash. Aw, c’mon! You’d keep the money too, right? No one ever needs to know….
Sammy Keyes trades in her hightops for hiking boots—and winds up with blisters.
This is not the summer camping trip of Sammy’s dreams. She imagined shady glades, meandering streams, a deer or two. What she gets are scrubby shrubs, blazing sun, rattlesnakes, ticks, and scorpions. Her fellow campers are desperate to catch a rare glimpse of an endangered condor. To Sammy, the trip is nothing more than the painful in pursuit of the unspeakably ugly.
But when she and two other girls find an injured condor, Sammy’s intrigued at last. As they track down a clue, they stumble onto two classmates and wind up lost. Which leaves three girls and two boys in a canyon with one tent and six billion biting flies. Oh—and an armed and dangerous highstakes poacher.
The first time she saw him, she flipped. The first time he saw her, he ran. That was the second grade, but not much has changed by the seventh. She says: “My Bryce. Still walking around with my first kiss.” He says: “It’s been six years of strategic avoidance and social discomfort.” But in the eighth grade everything gets turned upside down. And just as he’s thinking there’s more to her than meets the eye, she’s thinking that he’s not quite all he seemed.
This is a classic romantic comedy of errors told in alternating chapters by two fresh, funny new voices. Wendelin Van Draanen is at her best here with a knockout cast of quirky characters and a hilarious series of misunderstandings and missed opportunities. But underlying the humor are two teens in transition. They are each learning to look beyond the surface of people, both figuring out who they are, who they want to be, and who they want to be with.
Sammy Keyes has a lot of nerve. Wearing high-tops to a fancy reception at an art gallery. Asking why a framed orange splot is worth $10,000. Eyebrows rise. Noses turn up.
But then Sammy tackles a thief who tries to break up the soiree with a stickup. Now
the patrons of the arts are glad she has a lot of nerve. Or are they? Sammy may have stopped a criminal, but the real crime has yet to be discovered. The real crime is more subtle, more artful, than anything Sammy’s ever seen.
She had no idea art could be so dangerous…
Sammy’s softball team is in contention for the Junior Slugger’s Cup, and all she wants to do is hunker down behind home plate and catch strikes. But Heather Acosta brings new meaning to the term “foul ball” as she schemes to get Sammy kicked off the team. And Sammy is thrown a wild pitch by a frantic girl in the mall. She begs Sammy to watch something for her and then dashes off before Sammy realizes that the bag she’s left holding contains a baby! Now there are some pitches that you shouldn’t even try to catch, but Sammy’s a take-it-in-the-chest-protector kind of player. So when the girl doesn’t return for her baby, Sammy decides to go find her. And her search leads her into situations that are just not covered in a softball playbook.
The normally unflappable Sammy Keyes is reeling—not from her encounters with a corpse, an arsonist, or an irate policeman, these she can handle. No, what completely unbalances her is the teen-scene at a New Year’s Eve party. Caught up in this adolescent ambush, Sammy begins to doubt herself. And if she can’t trust her own instincts, how can she possibly figure out who burned down a pioneer-era cabin, how a 200-pound pig has disappeared , or why Casey might want to hold her hand?
In this fifth Sammy Keyes mystery, Wendelin Van Draanen gives us her most ambitious work to date. While her prose is as comic as ever, there’s a very serious undercurrent here—Sammy is tossed and torn, both literally and figuratively, as she shoots the rapids of this plot. But in puzzling out whodunit and how and why, she manages not only to turn the culprits over to the police, but also to reclaim a belief in her own strength.