Thirteen-year-old October Schwartz is new in town; short on friends and the child of a clinically depressed science teacher, she spends her free time in the Sticksville Cemetery and it isn’t long before she befriends the ghosts of five dead teenagers, each from a different era of the past. Using October’s smarts and the ghosts’ abilities to walk through walls and roam around undetected, they form the Dead Kid Detective Agency, a group committed to solving Sticksville’s most mysterious mysteries. So when the high school’s beloved French teacher dies in a suspicious car accident, it provides the agency with its first bona fide case, putting them in the midst of a murder plot thick with car chases, cafeteria fights, and sociopathic math teachers, and sending them on an adventure that might just uncover the truth about a bomb that exploded 40 years ago.
Paperback, 300 pages
Expected publication: September 1st 2011 by Ecw Press
ISBN: 1550229710 (ISBN13: 9781550229714)
Ok, so lets just say that I was wrong about this book. I apologize to the Dead Kids. I misjudged the book by it’s first 80 pages.
I had a hard time getting into it. The first 80 or so pages were hard. Very dull. Day in the life of a 12-then-13yo genius Goth girl kinda dull. The story is told from a narrator’s and from October’s points of view. Hard to follow? Yes. Interesting writing style? Yes. Clever writing & funny? Yes. Easy to follow? No. You get the picture.
October (who’s name has to be the best character name of 2011) is new at school, shy, self-conscious, and only 13…as a freshman in high school. Anyone hear the Doogie Howser theme? Yeah, but it’s not like that. She’s not some uber-freak smart kid, she’s just ahead based on the curriculum from her last school. Anyway, she’s a loner, has a couple friends, spends time in a graveyard. Yeah, and that’s about all that happened until Chapter 6. But keep reading, trust me. I did. Things get SO much better.
The mysterious death of her favorite teacher leads October, with the help of the BEST part of the entire book: THE DEAD KIDS (!!!!), on a search for the who’s, what’s, when’s, where’s, why’s, and how’s. It’s a comedy of errors, mixed in with some Canadian history lessons, and a lot of Nancy Drew-esq sleuth work. As a 30-something I was entertained. As a tween, with my ever-present discerning taste in literature, I would have been entertained as well.
Now, I can’t honestly post a review without some criticism. And there is actually very little to criticize. The Dead Kid Detective Agency is long—at just over 300 pages, the story did get a little winded, and a few (or a few thousand) words could/should have been removed. Though intriguing, there was too much mess between critical plot-relevant elements of the novel. It was like the never-ending story. I’m sure you caught that THE BEST PART OF THE BOOK ARE THE DEAD KIDS, but there’s not enough of them in the book. It’s “October this” or “October that.” The Dead Kids felt like an after thought, just a clever name for a book.
I get the distinct impression that this is the first in a series of books. If this is so, I will check out the next in the series.
4 Stars: Investigate this one, the answers are worth the footwork.
*This pre-release was provided to me by the publishers through netGalley*