Before I get down to business, let me just tell you about my most recent bit of press (yes, I said press!). I wrote a Top Ten feature for the Burlington Union, my town's newspaper, and today is the day it was printed! You can check out my picks here. (And I just want to say that I haven't read all the great books out there for teens and younger readers, so I'm sorry if I missed a favorite of yours! Let me know in the comments if you have one you'd put on there.)
Okay, review time. This is a book I read in 6th grade, and I actually don't think I read the whole thing back then. At least, I couldn't remember it very well, though I found that I knew most of the answers and remembered key scenes, so I must have read some of it.
Title: The Westing Game
Author: Ellen Raskin
Publisher: Puffin, 1979
Where I got this: I bought it for my brother years ago and we still have it.
Sam Westing, millionaire, has died and has called together 16 heirs to solve the mystery of the one who took his life. And it was one of those present! The winner receives the inheritance of his entire fortune, $200 million. Paired up and given a set of clues, the heirs must scramble to find the answer before the others in order to win the money.
The set of characters is really quite diverse, and all are quirky and original. All are well rounded and have layers (except maybe Doug Hoo, who is a jock through and through). You might think you know a character, but then you realize you misjudged them. There is no real main character, though Turtle gets close. We know more about her than any of the others, and follow her story most closely.
The mystery itself is complex and not necessarily a whodunnit. It's obvious Raskin planned out the sequence of events very carefully—it will certainly keep you guessing, and the reader has to be pretty clever in order to figure it out. That said, it IS possible to solve the mystery if you follow the clues closely enough. Watch out for misleading statements if you do try to figure it out!
All in all, this is pretty much the Ultimate mystery for middle grade readers (and probably younger and older ones too). As I was reading, I remembered a lot of the answers, but I don't think I'd have figured it out on my own. Maybe the first answer, but not the ultimate one.
Did you read this when you were younger? How did you do when you tried to solve it, or did you even try to at all?