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by Celia Rees

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-7894-2668-4
Publisher: DK Publishing

Originally published in Great Britain as Truth or Dare, Rees folds three strands of plot together into one intriguing mystery about 13-year-old Joshua’s long-departed Uncle Patrick. Even before they arrive at Gram’s house, where Gram is terminally ill and needing care, Mom is acting strange. Although Gram’s mutterings about Patrick aren’t worth bothering about, the strangeness of Patrick’s old room is worth Josh’s study. While absorbed by these oddities, Josh’s mother, Joanna, in an attempt to deal with her own guilt, creates a computer file describing the critical events of the long-ago summer when she was 11 and Patrick disappeared. After Gram is gone, neighbor Katherine, 15 and attractive, provides the outside prod to truly search for answers. Together, she and Josh discover a frightening correlation between that secret family story and the plot of a new AlienState video game: HomeWorld. The dexterity with which Rees weaves these threads together builds suspense. The characters are not well-developed, nor is there a strong moral sense at the core. At the heart of the mystery is Patrick’s autism, or Asberger’s Syndrome. There was no such diagnosis at the time, and much pain and tragedy resulted. The brutality with which Patrick is treated doesn’t diminish or excuse the violence of his reactions. The impact is softened and made bearable by having the worst take place off-stage or in the past. Adults may wish for an ending that delves deeper and questions the moral justice of events, but the intended readers will be grabbed by the trail of leads and will accept the mystery on its own terms. Detecting with a techie tilt. (Fiction. 10-14)