Review Detail

Sammy Keyes is my new best (book) friend
(Updated: July 07, 2012)
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
I admit it. I judged a book by its cover – a whole series of books, actually. I took one look at the cover art and thought, “Nah, not for me.” And I was wrong, oh so very very wrong. Sammy Keyes is my new favorite heroine. In fact, I know exactly what I'm reading next. I'm reading all fourteen Sammy Keyes books I snubbed, like the snobby book-cover-judging criminal I am. It’s more than I deserve, frankly, because there’s almost nothing I like better than finding a new series.

Reading the first chapter of SAMMY KEYES AND THE POWER OF JUSTICE JACK was like grudgingly meeting a person I’m sure I’ll hate, and then discovering how warm and funny and lovable she really is. By the end of the second chapter, I was so riveted nothing could have ripped the book from my hands. I gobbled it up greedily, and am heading to the library for more Sammy Keyes mysteries as soon as I finish writing this review.

Ah yes! The review. In this, her latest adventure, Sammy encounters yet another Santa Martina odd-ball: a twenty-something guy in a mask calling himself Justice Jack. Although the police have their eye on him, he seems harmless enough and he's clearly a fan of Sammy and her sleuthing skills. Sammy’s not paying too much attention however, because as always, she’s got plenty of stuff on her plate already. Her Gram’s crazy next-door neighbor had disappeared, her boyfriend’s mother and sister are still psycho and her best friend seems to be falling – again – for a lying, cheating scoundrel. Then a statue is stolen from City Hall, Justice Jack looks like he might be a fraud, and Sammy is having to spend more and more time in the closet, so no one will find out she’s living in her Gran’s apartment illegally.

Stuck all together like that, this sounds like a lot of plot, but in Wendelin Van Draanen’s able hands, the story never falters, and there’s still plenty of room for adolescent musings, quarrels and reconciliations, boy troubles and skateboarding. Moreover, the writing itself is beautiful, but never draws attention to itself.

Any mystery fan under 15 who has yet to read these books is simply missing out. Sammy Keyes would also satisfy readers waiting for the next 39 Clues book to come out, or fans of writers like Margaret Peterson Haddix. It’s also one of those rare books likely to appeal equally to boys and girls, because although Sammy is a girl, she’s not in the least girly.

So this is my four-word review of SAMMY KEYES AND THE POWER OF JUSTICE JACK: lousy cover, amazing book. Despite my new-found affection for this series, I still find the hardback covers unappealing. The Yearling covers are better, but nothing special. Sammy deserves some SERIOUS cover love. Knopf, take note. You’re hiding a diamond in a smelly old sock. Take it out. Let it sparkle.
Good Points
Original, appealing heroine
Clever plot
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