Susan Heyboer O'Keefe, Author
Susan Heyboer O'Keefe, Author . Peachtree/ Freestone $14.95 (224p) ISBN 1-56145-264-5
Reviewed on: 05/13/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002

Part mystery, part coming of age story, O'Keefe's (One Hungry Monster) debut YA novel features a troubled 15-year-old narrator who—mostly through her irrepressible energy—convinces readers of the legitimacy of her amateur criminal investigation. The suspense builds, but a tenuous premise and rather stock characters weigh down the novel. When constantly uprooted Allie starts attending strangers' funerals in her new hometown, she goes to the burial of Jimmy, a boy who would have been in her freshman class. Armed with circumstantial evidence (plus an active imagination and big mouth), Allie concludes he was murdered, and with background information provided by his best friend, Dennis, she starts sleuthing. The dramatic scenarios that Ally dreams up can be hilarious (when she suspects the housekeeper of Jimmy's murder, she imagines her "doing it as ruthlessly as pulling the head off a chicken for dinner"), but readers may be challenged to believe Ally's conviction that she and Jimmy were "candidates for a 'separated at birth' article" (because they both were children of divorce and math whizzes) and her subsequent obsession with him. Characters such as a wise old English teacher or a slow, hot-tempered bully seem equally contrived, and readers may well figure out the cause of Jimmy's death before Ally does. Ages 12-16.(May)

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