Sometime in the next six months or so, I’ll be revising my YA mystery. It’s current title is STAND-IN FOR MURDER. (I’ve learned not to get too attached to titles. I often think that Marketing–and yes, I did mean to capitalize that word–gets the final say. They’re the people who know what’s out there and what’s selling. ) One of the ways that I’ve been preparing myself is to read some YA. At heart, I’m more of a middle grade novelist, but I love the adult mysteries of Elizabeth Peters, Barbara Michaels, Sharyn McCrumb, and Charlotte McLeod. The mystery that came to me needed a high school student as the main character for any number of different reasons.
The latest book that I picked up was Joan Bauer’s novel, PEELED. I was pretty sure that I’d like it even before I plucked it off the library shelf. Ms. Bauer consistently writes stories with heart and humor. I’ve read a few YA novels where the layers of death and dysfunction remind me of a sandwich randomly assembled at Subway. In PEELED, the losses that characters suffered in the past feel organic and authentic. The main character Hildy really seemed to have grown up in Banesville, New York. And when she and her cohorts from the school paper put themselves at risk to cover an important issue to their area, their reasoning felt real instead of “must endanger characters in order to create an exciting plot. ” Ms. Bauer’s research into journalism paid off. I found the world of PEELED to be utterly convincing except for maybe one thing.
I had one quibble with how Ms. Bauer handled parts of the ending. But that’s because I have seen a very different ending to a similar situation–alas, no ghosts– in real life. If anyone cares to know, ask in a note and I’ll put what would amount to a few spoilers in the comments section.