Monday, December 15, 2014

MG Book Review: Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills, by Carrie Cross

General Information
Publisher: Teen Mystery Press
Year of publication: 2013
# of chapters: 44
# of pages: (e-book)
Genre: mystery

Next in the series: 
The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels
(December 9, 2014)

Plot summary (from Amazon):
Thirteen-year-old sleuth Skylar Robbins is horrified to learn that she'll be stuck at her bullying cousin Gwendolyn's creepy mansion for the summer. She has no idea how much excitement and danger awaits her in Malibu’s Shadow Hills.

As soon as Skylar arrives at the estate, unexplainable events begin to happen. She discovers a hidden garden in the huge back yard, and her new friend Kat pronounces it the perfect place to perform spells. Practical Skylar is skeptical, until the magic appears to start working.

Is Kat a real middle school witch and a true friend, or is she just interested in the cute stable boy? Did she use magic to control Skylar’s body, or was it all part of a complicated hoax? Who or what is making those terrifying noises up in Shadow Hills at night?

Rumors are flying and the locals are afraid. Kat challenges Skylar to take increasingly dangerous risks while she tries to solve the mystery. Armed with her detective tools, brains, and a huge dose of courage, Skylar will face her deepest fears to find the truth.

Positive Points
What could be more interesting than a detective story mixed with witchcraft and a touch of magic? I was going to mention that some parents and teachers might object to teaching witchcraft to kids in a novel, but after reading the whole book, I see what the author intended to accomplish and I found it cleverly done. Keep an open mind when reading this book. Witchcraft is intriguing, and I must admit I loved learning about it, but I especially like the lessons learned around the end.

The cover is amazing! Bonus point for that. I remember seeing it on an e-mail from The Fussy Librarian, and it caught my eye. I'm glad I received a copy to review.

I really love the character growth in this story and how everything turned out in the end. I don't want to say anything specific and spoil it for potential readers, but I liked how everything wasn't quite the way it seemed. There were plenty of intriguing elements that kept me turning the pages.

I like the diversity of characters: a witch in training, a deaf boy, a tall and skinny African-American guy who's excellent at drawing, an annoying chubby cousin, a dyslexic best friend.

Another bonus point for teaching me how to lift fingerprints. Not that I'll ever need to, but it's interesting.

Negative Points
There was a little too much telling for my taste, too many details that could have been revealed in scenes throughout the novel instead of being spelled out for the reader at the beginning: the content of her detective kit, how her cousin is like, her mom's hair color compared to hers. I find it more satisfying as a reader to discover things little by little or to reach my own conclusions instead of being told; for example, I would have preferred reading a scene about her interacting with her cousin and realizing they really don't get along, instead of having some back story of what has already happened, followed by "My cousin and I did not get along."

The text messages were annoying to read. I'm the type of person who spells out every word when I text, so reading "Wish u w here to help me explore. N 2 go 2 school w me." was a little jarring. Do kids really still text like this? I know they did with flip phones, but now phones have full keyboards, so the texting style changed. I could be wrong. My kids do the opposite than in this book; they add extra letters, such as in "I'm soooooo maddddddd!"

What makes this book unique
I always like a good detective story, but this one also had witchcraft and magic in the mix, which made it even more interesting. How does a practical, down-to-earth detective deal with the occult? Interesting combination.

Overall Impression
Despite the negative points, I really enjoyed reading this book. I wish I had time to read it a second time, now that I know the ending.

My Rating:

Thinking of purchasing this book? I'll make it easy for you:


LynnRush said...

Great review. Sounds intriguing!! And yes, I agree, the cover is great!

Greg Pattridge said...

I hadn't heard of this one so thanks for featuring. I've spotted high school age kids texting in a code like manner – not so much for new texters. Despite the negatives, which I agree fully, I hope to read this for myself soon.

Rosi said...

I lake the idea of mystery and magic together. I'll be looking for this one. Thanks for the review.

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