“An absorbing mystery about friendship, growth, and heroics.” —Kirkus Reviews
Jesse is on the case when money goes missing from the library and her dad is looking like the #1 suspect in Edgar Award–winning author Susan Vaught’s latest middle grade mystery.
I could see the big inside of my Sam-Sam. I had been training him for 252 days with mini tennis balls and pieces of bacon, just to prove to Dad and Mom and Aunt Gus and the whole world that a tiny, fluffy dog could do big things if he wanted to. I think my little dog always knew he could be a hero.
I just wonder if he knew about me.
When the cops show up at Jesse’s house and arrest her dad, she figures out in a hurry that he’s the #1 suspect in the missing library fund money case. With the help of her (first and only) friend Springer, she rounds up suspects (leading to a nasty confrontation with three notorious school bullies) and asks a lot of questions. But she can’t shake the feeling that she isn’t exactly cut out for being a crime-solving hero. Jesse has a neuro-processing disorder, which means that she’s “on the spectrum or whatever.” As she explains it, “I get stuck on lots of stuff, like words and phrases and numbers and smells and pictures and song lines and what time stuff is supposed to happen.” But when a tornado strikes her small town, Jesse is given the opportunity to show what she's really made of—and help her dad.
Told with the true-as-life voice Susan Vaught is known for, this mystery will have you rooting for Jesse and her trusty Pomeranian, Sam-Sam.
Susan Vaught is the author of Edgar Award–winning novel Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy. It was a Junior Library Guild Selection, a Bank Street Best Book, and The Horn Book called it “compelling, offbeat, and fearless.” Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry was called “a provocative, sensitive, and oh-so-timely read,” by Kirkus Reviews in a starred review. Susan’s many books for teens include Trigger, which received three starred reviews and was an ALA Best Books for Young Adults. She works as a neuropsychologist at a state psychiatric facility, specializing in helping people with severe and persistent mental illness, intellectual disability, and traumatic brain injury. She lives on a farm with her wife and son in rural western Kentucky.
Jesse Broadview is trying to survive junior high just like everyone else—with the addition of doing it while having autism spectrum disorder—but it gets complicated when her English teacher father is arrested for stealing money from the school. Bullied at school, Jesse spends her time outside it training her Pomeranian, Sam-Sam, to be a bomb-sniffing dog just like her heroic, deployed mom's. Even though he's afraid of dogs, new kid Springer Regal is also a bit offbeat, and he and Jesse find similarities and strengths in each other. They decide they will have to investigate the theft in order to prove Jesse's dad's innocence, as the police are unlikely to take his claims seriously. Jesse and Springer narrow their list of suspects, but when a tornado rips through their small Kentucky town, further opportunities to be heroic abound. Moving back and forth in time, Vaught writes in Jesse's wry, distinct voice, allowing her to explain some of her sensitivities in a frank, matter-of-fact way: "new clothes don't have to be perfect. Just not itchy." Readers also see how even well-meaning neurotypicals can inadvertently echo the distancing gestures Jesse endures—and has to some extent internalized—from the actively cruel bullies. But over and above all this, Jesse is a vibrant, strong, smart, funny character who happens to have ASD. Jesse, her family, and Springer present white; ethnic diversity is indicated primarily through naming convention. An absorbing mystery about friendship, growth, and heroics. (author's note) (Mystery. 8-12)