Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Peeled review

by Joan Bauer
Putnam Juvenile
May 2008

Sixteen year-old Hildy Biddle dreams of being a stellar journalist. She's the star writer for her high school newspaper in the small, sleepy farming town of Banesville, NY. I must admit I very nearly put this book in my "Did Not Finish" pile in the first few pages. The book opens with a prolonged description of the Apple Valley Pageant Queen vomiting due to food poisoning. That, plus the fast-paced, noir-inspired, witty banter that Hildy uses initially felt a bit forced - like she was trying too hard to sound like Sam Spade. But, I stuck with it, and things picked up from there.

Hildy reminded me a lot of Veronica Mars... bold, inquisitive and skeptical, and fairly down on the whole idea of dating. She lives with her mom and cousin and grandparents, since the recent death of her father, also a reporter.

The local paper, The Bee, starts printing more and more outrageous stories, claiming there's a ghost haunting the old Ludlow place, creating fear and panic in the town. With the help of her experienced newsman mentor Baker Polton, she sleuths out the clues that lead to the real reason behind the hauntings. When the school shuts down the school paper, The Core, she and her friends start a rebel sheet called The Peel.

Ignoring for the moment, that this is basically the same plot of every episode Scooby-Doo, ever:

"You mean the editor of The Bee faked all the ghost sightings to lower property values in town so he could build a new development?"
"And we would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!"

This was a fast-paced enjoyable read. I can't imagine living in a world where newspapers are as important as they are to Hildy - she and her friends briefly mention the idea of creating a blog to disseminate school news, but quickly veto the idea, because it might not get out to enough people.

This is a solid pick for younger teens, and the perfect book for YA readers looking for non-fantasy realistic fiction without too much emphasis on romance. I'd actually recommend this as a great introduction to Joan Bauer. If readers like this, they'll love the much-stronger Hope Was Here.

I borrowed this book from the library.

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