Saturday, September 27, 2014

Absolutely Truly: A Pumpkin Falls Mystery by Heather Vogel Frederick

I always wonder how authors choose names. Some say it just comes to them. Others keep lists. Some use root meanings. Some use cultural or historical contexts. Others tie it into the theme. This author picks screwy names that drop like falling leaves throughout the story. The main character is 12-year-old Truly Lovejoy who suffers from ongoing bad jokes made over her name that will make you wince or smile. She's not the only bad-name-character. There is Cha Cha. And Erastus. And Romeo. I kept waiting for his sister Juliet to break out with the line, "What’s in a name? that which we call a rose /By any other name would smell as sweet." Good thing she doesn't. That would be a killjoy. Seriously, the goofy names add to the fun of the book.

Truly has just moved to the small town of Pumpkin Falls in New Hampshire. Oops, I forgot to mention that name too. Truly thinks bumpkins live in pumpkinville and she's unhappy about being uprooted from her home in Austin, Texas. But things are bad with her dad. He was in the Afghanistan war where an IUD blew up his armored vehicle killing his best friend and maiming him. Close to retirement, he had a job to be a commercial pilot in Texas. One arm pilots do not exist and the family moves to Pumpkin Falls where he gets a job running his parents bookstore with his sister, True. Yep. Truly names run in the family. Good thing sis's nickname is True. Two Truly's would be really confusing. True usually tells the truth to her brother whether or not he wants to hear it. Healing is a glacial process for him and while his children tiptoe around him, his sister is in his face when necessary.

As the new kid at school, Truly stands out at 6-feet tall, even though she tries to fly in "stealth mode", her phrase for going unnoticed by others. It doesn't work. The school is too small and Cha Cha is too friendly. When Truly discovers an envelope in a novel at the bookstore, she decides to figure out the clues to the mysterious writing along with the help of Cha Cha and other friends at school. Fitting in isn't always easy for Truly and she really isn't as shy as she'd like to be. As the family adjusts to their new life they hope that their father will joke and smile again.

Truly narrates this story and her self-deprecation adds humor. The youngest sibling that is missing two front teeth and lisps also lightens the heavy parts where the dad is dealing with grief and Truly is dealing with being the new kid. The peer that seems like a bully, but really wants to be a part of Truly's group of friends shows how it isn't easy determining others intentions. The mystery lacks suspense and just wasn't very interesting to the plot. While the story does a nice job developing characters and showing friendships, I would have liked more action. I found my impatient self skimming along like an ice skater.

3 Smileys 

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