We met Kristen Kittscher at the ALA 2013 Midwinter in Seattle, and, after talking with her we all bee-lined for her stall to pick up a copy of Wig in the Window. (Though I realize this is meant to be a review of the books, it was nice to meet Kristen who was genuinely interested in us bloggers–and hey, she was an awesome debut author to boot!). Anyway, this middle grade mystery series is a great read (for adults too!) and, as with most middle-grade mysteries, is essentially about friendship with plenty of adventure, mishaps and humour.
The good: Sophie and Grace are great characters that balance each other out nicely while remaining realistic (with some conflict and periphery relationships and friendships too). I also really enjoyed how Sophie and Grace didn’t miss out on obvious clues, in fact there are no obvious clues but instead the mystery is revealed steadily. This is so great because far too often in Middle Grade mystery (a favourite genre of mine) I can figure out the answer within the first few pages, but Wig had me reading all the way to the end. This garners the Steph Stamp of Mysteriousness!
The great!: It isn’t kids against adults. Ok, admittedly Sophie gets into maybe a little too much trouble at the behest of Grace BUT there aren’t any ridiculous risks taken. The authorities are called when necessary and these kids truly trust adults with information–of course not all of the adults are trustworthy and so in the end the mystery is still in the children’s hands to solve. I liked this aspect because: first, I want the kids to be the heroes and figure it all out and second, it’s logical that kids would want to have adult input but that they wouldn’t be completely blindsided by an adult lying. Great balance was struck here in the storytelling.
The kind of meh: There was one thing that stuck out for me and that was the constant referral to appearance directly relating to whether or not a character is good or bad in the children’s eyes. A woman is a suspicious character because of her huge fake breasts–kind of funny, but also kind of not. Granted in much of children’s pop-culture the “bad guys” are sporting scars and big noses or some sort of strange appearance “cue” but I wasn’t expecting this from Wig and I think the point here is that this issue wasn’t really solved. The moral wasn’t necessarily “don’t judge a person by their appearance” and perhaps that’s what I was looking for . . .
The Good and the Great outweigh the “kind of meh” for me and I totally recommend The Wig in the Window. It was a fun mystery and I will now seek out the sequel Tiara on the Terrace and look forward to more humor, action, friendship, and perhaps some growth in the characters from book one.