Friday, November 17, 2006

A Possible Alternative To Girls-Gone-Bad Books?

In spite of its very kiddy cover (which Blogger refuses to upload for me), Gilda Joyce and the Ladies of the Lake by Jennifer Allison is a sophisticated, well written book for the middle school set who are also the audience for The Clique series.

Gilda Joyce is a high school freshman who calls herself a psychic investigator, though in this particular book (the second in a series) the psychic element is limited to some events that may or may not be the result of a haunting. (There's only one true haunt that I can recall in the whole book.) She's also into writing, and her writing is a hoot. In addition, she has a hip, flippant way about her. She's like a much more realistic Georgia Nicholson. She's smart without setting your teeth on edge. For instance, Gilda is interested in MacBeth, not because she's one of those annoying smart girls who reads Shakespeare, but because the play includes three witches.

The story (and there is one) is told through a number of devices: a traditional third person narrator, Gilda's typewritten detective notes, other pieces of her writing, and letters she writes to her father. Who is dead.

Yeah, you heard me. She writes to her dead dad. This is not a ghostly element, because he doesn't write back. Gilda is just sort of maintaining a relationship with her father. It's also a totally believable--and clever--way to get information out.

Now, I'm guessing some of you out there may be thinking, Gee, Gail, you're always complaining about books that use journal entries to tell their story. How come you don't have your knickers in a twist over using letters?

Mainly because these are letters to a dead dad, and I haven't seen dead dad letters a million times the way I've seen journal entries a million times. When everyone starts using dead dad letters in their books, I'll start complaining about that, too.

You also might be thinking, Gee, Gail, why would the kids who are interested in The Clique series be at all interested in this book?

Because, my friends, The Ladies of the Lake includes teen girls gone bad. It has rich girls who think they're all that and cut other girls out of their lives. And it has girls who want to be part of their group. Even Gilda feels the lure.

Remember, The Clique books are directed to a slightly younger audience than the other girls-gone-bad books, and the one book I read in the series was much tamer than the older girl books. The female characters weren't getting drunk on their backsides and performing sexual acts with boys they'd just met. I think your Clique readers may very well be interested in something that includes the teen posses they love to read about but in a mystery setting.

Gilda is a twenty-first century teen detective. She solves the case, but she doesn't make everything wonderful for everyone, including herself. There's no contrived happy ending here.

And as an added bonus, though this book is the second in a series, it stands alone. The author doesn't have to do a lot of catch up in the early chapters for those of us who didn't read the original book, and she doesn't leave us with a cliffhanger. (Though she does introduce a new character who I suspect we'll see again.)

So, altogether, I'd have to call this a satisfying mystery.

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