Although serious issues are presented in this story for the preteen set, it is written with a light touch showing that although the heroine has problems, life is good and happiness possible. Sam has only the slightest memories of her father and her twin sister, Sarah. Sarah drowned in the quarry when she was only three and her parents were divorced a short time later. After her dad disappeared from their lives, Sam's mother never liked to speak of him. But now that her mom was about to marry Bob, Sam sets out to search for her dad. While Sam likes Bob, she does not want to be adopted by him; after all, she has a father out there somewhere. Sam even consults a psychic who raises doubts about the death of her sister. Despite all this, the story is not dark and depressing, which is admirable, but the ending is a bit pat. While Sam's mother's decision not to take legal action against her ex-husband when the truth comes out may be understandable, she too readily forgives him for allowing her to think that their baby daughter, Sarah, had died. That is too cruel an act to be dismissedno matter what his motivations. 2005, Peachtree Publishers, Ages 9 to 14.
Carolyn Mott Ford
Samantha, fourteen, is a native of the small Iowa town where she lives with her no-nonsense mother and hangs out with her best and patient friend, Angela. Sam's mother is about to remarry, and although Sam has no real objection to her mother's choice of partners, the marriage itself awakens in her a latent curiosity about her father. The family history, as Sam knows it, is that he disappeared after the accidental drowning death of Sam's twin sister, Sarah, when the girls were three. When Angela's father-divorced and remarried-invites Angela to visit for a week, Sam goes along because she is pretty sure her own father is living close to Angela's. What Sam discovers is incredible: Not only has she successfully tracked down her father, but also he is living with the very much alive-but renamed-Sarah. There is more than coincidence and wish fulfillment in this quick read. The adults and their relationships with the various teens are nicely drawn, with far more realism than the twisting events. Sidekick Angela is a pillar of strength to flighty Sam. Sam herself comes to see how psychologically dangerous for others it can be to pursue one's own wish for satisfaction. There are some odd choices of words here, such as a reference to Sam's mother having gotten herself "knocked up" in a text that is otherwise G-rated. Although not great literature, this story will appeal to girls with a budding interest in how the individual influences family dynamics. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P J (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2005, Peachtree, 224p., Ages 12 to 15.
Gr 5-8-Samantha was three when her twin sister drowned in the local Iowa quarry and her father left. Now 13, she is determined to investigate the past, because her mother refuses to talk about it. Best friend Angela, not all that happy with her own absentee father, can't see what the big deal is, but is willing to help her in her investigation. Despite the fact that Sam and Angela defy parental authority, cross state lines, navigate public transport, and convince more than one person that the impossible is possible, there's not much detecting going on. The clues fall into Sam's lap. Searching into the past is not an unusual plot in children's books. Still, Butler has a simplicity of narrative voice that makes the story easy to read while reflecting the often-complex emotions of children forced to deal with things that have long been buried. It is the way that the author conveys these emotions that provides the most lingering memories of this fast-paced suspense novel.-Carol A. Edwards, Douglas County Libraries, Castle Rock, CO Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Middle-graders looking for a simple mystery will be pleased, and the story may inspire them to think about the concepts of identity and family that are threaded through the story.