Children's LiteratureVictor is gearing up for a potentially terrible summer. Instead of a skateboard for his birthday, he got a journal. His best friend has gone on vacation for the summer and Victor is dodging bullies at the local pool. But things take an interesting turn when he meets a mysterious girl at the pool and then finds even more mysterious letters in his mailbox. Victor teams up with the girl, whom he calls D, to attempt to solve the mystery behind the letters and the possible murder of a neighbor's dog. Eventually we become aware that D's life is not a very pleasant one, and Victor and his father both attempt to help make her situation better. At the same time, Victor is trying to resolve his relationship with his career-driven mother, who appears to want to be a part of the family again. The story is set in Germany (as is the author), which really makes little difference to the plot for American readers. This novel is not an unappealing story of an adolescent summer but nothing about it is particularly engaging. The story either loses something in the translation or could have benefited from the help of an experienced editor. The story meanders off on occasion, and what originally looks like an interesting mystery fizzles out long before the end of the story. An interesting book to add to a multicultural collection, but not a necessary purchase. 2006, Delacorte Press/Random House, and Ages 12 to 15.
School Library JournalGr 5-8-Victor Forlands, 13, is spending a boring summer hanging out in the Berlin apartment he shares with his taxi-driver dad and going to the city pool. Local bullies and his own fear of jumping off the high diving platform are making him miserable. His mother, who has left the family to pursue a career, confuses him as she comes and goes in his life. When mysterious, unaddressed, unsigned messages turn up in his and his neighbors' mail and he meets a pretty girl who calls herself Deborah, things start to get interesting, and Victor decides to record his observances in a journal he received for his birthday. The death of his neighbor's red cocker spaniel seems to be connected to words in the first sinister message: "the red animal is dead." When details of Deborah's troubled life come to light, it becomes clear that she is the author of the strange notes. She inspires Victor to stand up to the pool bullies and take the dive, and he arranges for a better living situation for her. The story is engrossing, if somewhat convoluted, and the characters are quirky. Victor's interest in the stars and in numbers, as well as the diary format, provide an appealing structure, but the writing (or translation) is sometimes choppy, and readers will be disappointed that the messages, which appear to be clues and promise a mystery, are nothing more than a plea for attention.-Marie Orlando, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus ReviewsTranslated smoothly from German, Wildner presents an intimate two-and-a-half-week slice of Victor's life in Berlin, beginning on his 13th birthday, when he receives a mysterious riddle that triggers a series of dark events in his neighborhood. Told through Victor's realistically scattered thoughts, readers closely follow him as he unpacks the riddles, which focus on star and number patterns. Beyond this writing style's benefit of building suspense, it also provides raw portraits of Victor's neighbors, his separated parents and the tragic female teen character D, who coincidentally appears when the first riddle arrives. Victor's relationship with D forces him to take risks, look outside his familiar and safe community and ultimately, mature as he deals with D's quirky personality and later the discovery of her true identity. Unfortunately, as Victor's character begins to solidify, Wildner rushes to conveniently solve the neighborhood mystery, which jars the plot's natural flow and detracts from the true importance of Victor's self-discovery and his relationship with D. (Fiction. YA)
- Random House Children's Books
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.75(w) x 8.63(h) x 0.67(d)
- Age Range:
- 12 - 17 Years
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