The Unmaking of Duncan Veerick

The Unmaking of Duncan Veerick

5.0 1
by Betty Levin

No good deed goes unpunished. Duncan has no intention of getting involved with the crazy lady who lives down the street. But when she has a stroke, his parents insist that he go to her home and take care of her ratty little dog. Her house is a warren of old junk, literally—her husband was a junk dealer, but there are some treasures mixed in. When the woman's…  See more details below


No good deed goes unpunished. Duncan has no intention of getting involved with the crazy lady who lives down the street. But when she has a stroke, his parents insist that he go to her home and take care of her ratty little dog. Her house is a warren of old junk, literally—her husband was a junk dealer, but there are some treasures mixed in. When the woman's nephew shows up to put things in order, she starts to get paranoid, thinking someone is stealing her treasures, and she ropes Duncan into helping her hide them. And that's when things start to go bad.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The book draws skillfully on the powerlessness of young people caught between underinformed adult authorities and bereft of the power to control situations themselves." --Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Grabs readers by the shirt and drags them in within the first page. Readers will not be able to put this book down." --Library Media Connection

Karolinde Young
Duncan Veerick's life is complicated enough. Between school, his sister, and his irritating neighbor, he has more than enough trouble. When his eccentric neighbor has a stroke, Duncan tries everything in his power to get out of taking care of her hyper dog. After Astrid Valentine returns from the hospital, Duncan finds himself at her beckon call. Astrid asks Duncan to hide some junk that engulfs her house from her prying nephew, starting a chain of events that could literally ruin Duncan's life. Duncan finds himself accused of murder and arson. It's a race against time as Duncan tries to find the real criminal and clear his name. The Unmaking of Duncan Veerick is a classic case of "no good deed will go unpunished." The characters are rich and surprising. Levin does an excellent job of tricking the reader into caring about them, especially Astrid Valentine. Middle school readers will surely sympathize with Duncan's plight, as well as with his annoyance at his sister. Reviewer: Karolinde Young
Middle school student Duncan enjoys rock climbing, hiking, and playing the trumpet. He is forced to put his interests on hold after his elderly neighbor, Astrid, becomes ill, and his parents volunteer him to care for her dog. Right from the opening page, it is clear that Duncan is a suspect in something that has gone wrong involving Astrid. Although Astrid at times can treat Duncan well, she just as often bullies him. She swings from coherent to confused to paranoid. Astrid wants Duncan to remove and hide her treasures, including a possibly illegal mummy, to keep them from her nephew and other adults involved. The story seems to rush to its conclusion as crimes and the true perpetrator are revealed in the closing pages. Although Duncan at times resents his forced volunteerism, it takes him an exceedingly long time to assert himself. The teen girl characters in the novel are quite insightful, cluing in the adults and spurring them to take some sort of action. Suspense is created throughout the book as the reader waits for something bad to happen to Astrid in order to figure out what Duncan is suspected of doing. Several red herrings are introduced about the true identity of the culprit and what the crime entailed, possibly confusing readers with the rapid revelations at the end of the story. Reviewer: Erin Wyatt
School Library Journal

Gr 6-9
Duncan Veerick, an average teenager in small-town America, is put upon. When an elderly neighbor has a stroke, his parents ask him to care for her yappy pooch, Mo. Duncan and Mrs. Valentine strike up an unlikely friendship and she employs him to hide several of her late husband's treasures (a Peruvian mummy, Eskimo sculptures) to save them from thieves and her meddling nephew. A fire and the woman's second stroke conspire to put Duncan in a real fix. The police suspect him of stealing the goods, and since Mrs. Valentine can no longer say otherwise, it's up to Duncan to prove his innocence. The story also touches on jazz music, teenage romance, and post-traumatic stress caused by the Vietnam War. It's a lot of content for a 200 pager, and the trouble is that the book never evolves into a compelling read. Many of the topics remain underdeveloped, as do several of the characters. Still, Duncan is likable and readers will find themselves wanting him to be OK in the end. He has a strong work ethic, which is admirable but confusing in the context of the story (his parents barely lift a finger to help their neighbor, even while they goad him into making unreasonable sacrifices for her benefit). The novel lacks an overarching theme, and readers might find themselves wondering, "What is this book about, exactly?"
—Nora G. MurphyCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
There is a mystery to be found in this, but it takes an inordinate time to get to it and then the whole thing fizzles. The first few paragraphs make it clear that eighth-grader Duncan is in trouble of some sort. Cops are questioning him about the death of a muddled old lady for whom he's been doing odd jobs. Astrid Valentine has had several strikes and seems nervous about her nephew's intentions toward her possessions. After a long time-during which Duncan and a friend unwillingly help Astrid try to hide her prized antiquities-she has a stroke and dies. Duncan is an extremely passive character for whom it's hard to feel a great deal of sympathy. He's so angry that he is under suspicion of a fire at Astrid's and stealing her money, that he generally just sulks and avoids doing anything to better his situation. Only his sister and Duncan's friend believe in his innocence. His parents, particularly his father, are hostile about the situation and clearly disbelieve his claims not to know the identity of the true culprit, though it will be obvious to most readers. Once everyone figures out the mystery, the story ends, with no satisfying description of the bad guy's comeuppance. Dull and ultimately unsatisfying. (Fiction. 10-14)

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Product Details

Highlights Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
640L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Betty Levin lives is a sheep farmer, border-collie trainer, and children's novelist. Her book The Trouble With Gramary, won the Judy Lopez Memorial Foundation Award. She has taught at Simmons College Center for the Study of Children's Literature and the Radcliffe seminars. She was a founding member of the Board of Children's Literature, New England, and received the Hope S. Dean Memorial Award from the Foundation for Children's Books. She lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

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The Unmaking of Duncan Veerick 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Astrid Valentine was Duncan's neighbor, but he had mostly avoided her until that day when she hollered at Duncan and begged him to catch her little ratty dog for her. She was afraid he was going to get hit by a car. A few days later, he crawled through the doggy door in the back of the house, because Mrs. Valentine had locked herself out. Then she had a stroke, and Duncan's parents coerced him into feeding and watering the little dog, Mo, and letting him out into the back yard after school...just until Astrid was able to take care of him herself.

Duncan had no idea how complicated his life was about to become, because Astrid didn't bounce right back like Duncan thought she would. She was in the hospital for quite a while, and then when she did come home, she was still not able to take care of Mo, and Duncan agreed to keep doing it. Gradually, his feelings change for the crazy old lady, and he finds himself helping her more and more.

Mr. Valentine had been a junk dealer before he died, and the Valentine house was still literally a junkyard. There were some treasures in there, too, and Astrid's nephew, Eddie, is planning to sell off the collection. Duncan takes on the job of sorting the antiques, artifacts, and usable items from the huge shed at the back of the house. Then he discovers the mummy that is hidden in the basement.

Astrid begins to think that Eddie is stealing from her, and begs Duncan to help her hide some of her rare treasures, and that's when things start to go bad. Duncan hauls the mummy to the shed in back, buries some treasures, and takes some to his house to hide. Then there is a fire and the shed and mummy burn, and when the police enter the picture, everyone is looking at Duncan as a suspect in the thefts.

Betty Levin has created a compelling, sympathetic character in Duncan Veerick with a plot that is nonstop action. The suspense builds relentlessly right up to the ending in this novel that is a good choice for tweens that are looking for an exciting story.