So I just realized I haven't posted a new review in more than a week—gross. Sorry about being MIA, everyone. In my defense, it was a busy week! I walked 3 days this past weekend for the Susan G. Komen breast cancer walk, AND I had a final project due for class/LOTS of books to read for it. Anyway, enough whining—I am about to remedy this disgusting lack of reviewing on a book review blog.
Title: Down the Rabbit Hole (An Echo Falls Mystery)
Author: Peter Abrahams
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2005
Where and why: I bought this at the B&N where I work to read for the mystery unit of my children's lit class.
Ingrid Levin-Hill is a pretty normal 8th grader, just trying to deal with braces, pass her classes, and get to soccer on time, plus getting through her community theater's production of Alice in Wonderland as the title character. Unfortunately, she has a tendency to dig herself deep in trouble.
When she realizes she leaves her favorite (red!) cleats at what later becomes a crime scene, she knows she has to get them out, fast, or else she'll be all mixed up in a case she wants nothing to do with. And immediately gets herself mixed up in a case she wants nothing to do with. The only option? Solve the case herself, or get arrested as the prime suspect. All while dealing with being in middle school.
Let's start with the good. This mystery has all the classic mystery elements. It's a whodunnit, we get clues scattered throughout the book that help us solve the mystery, there's one perpetrator that we are familiar with, and all that jazz. Ingrid also channels Sherlock Holmes a lot, as he is her very favorite—lots of her inspirations and ideas come from his particular brand of mystery-solving. Abrahams really focuses on logic and reason in here, what with Ingrid's focus on Sherlock Holmes and Alice from Alice in Wonderland. (Bonus! Kids will likely want to pick these up after reading this one.)
The characters are also pretty relatable. Ingrid is going through what one might call her "awkward phase," and come on, we all know we had one too. This is especially, painfully obvious in her relationship with Joey, which at times is pretty perfect. There are a lot of things going on outside the mystery plot with Ingrid's family too, namely the behavior of her brother and father. It's hinted that there's more going on there, which (I've heard from a classmate) is revealed as the series progresses. I enjoyed this character development; I don't like one-dimensional characters, I don't know about you.
Despite all this, there was a lot I didn't like about this book. I found the mystery itself really predictable. I know it's written for a younger audience, but really. A lot of teens and young adults will figure out what's going on way before Ingrid does, who is maddeningly slow at figuring this stuff out. It takes her about 375 pages out of 400 to start piecing it all together.
I also found Ingrid irritating in her constant stunts to figure things out. Didn't she learn the first time that breaking into houses is bad and will implicate her? Hmm??? She doesn't have any forethought and just does whatever she feels is going to get her the answers. And some people might really like this about her, but I just found it annoying, even if we wouldn't have a book without this endearing quality of hers.
Another annoyance is the constant name-dropping and dated references. Puma, North Face, whatever; brand names are used to describe objects. The popularity of brands is not necessarily timeless; in 10 years, this book will probably have dated itself and kids reading it might not know what the name "North Face" implies like they do now. There is also a lot of IMing and Googling going on. Like I said, who knows what will be popular in 10 years' time?
Overall, this was a pretty good mystery with a clear solution, despite certain irritating aspects of the book as a whole. It will probably get kids to read some classics, and at the very least will allow them to solve a mystery, either partially or completely. If you're looking for a YA mystery this series will work. Personally, I like the Sammy Keyes mysteries better—the crime-solver is more likable, interesting, and funny.