In this YA novel, a young girl investigates suspicious doings in her neighborhood with the help of her best friend.
Twelve-year-old Maxwell Parker lives in Riverdale, California, with her artist mother. Seventh grade is about to begin, and Maxwell has had a boring summer with nothing to investigate; she longs to be like fictional teen detectives Nancy Drew or Veronica Mars. But then a new neighbor, the grandmotherly Mrs. Cook, raises the girl’s suspicions. Maxwell builds a case file on her, collecting snippets such as “Fact #2: Mrs. Cook has a coffee table that is large enough to hold a corpse.” But Maxwell has another problem—starting junior high and finding new friends. As she tells her best friend, Kenneth Newman, she feels like the “Little Mermaid” from the original fairy tale: “I look pretty much like other kids, but there’s something essentially different about me….I know that to fit in, I’d probably have to sell my soul.” Nevertheless, she tries to fit in anyway, “helping” a popular girl with her math homework while actually just giving her the answers. Still, Maxwell continues her private-eye activities, especially after reports that members of a credit card ring called the Backstreet Bandits are operating in Riverdale. As the tween investigates, with some surprising results, she also finds new courage and cements her friendship with Kenneth. Lynn (Letters from the Land of La, 2016, etc.) offers an appealing heroine in Maxwell, who blends individuality and intelligence with the usual insecurities of a junior high school kid. The character’s struggles to figure out just how grown-up to be, and especially how to navigate the social land mines of seventh grade without losing her identity, are well-told and relatable. In some other books for young readers, tween girls are obsessed with clothes and looks; not Maxwell, who marches to her own drummer—even if she’s sometimes uneasy about it. Kenneth, meanwhile, is depicted as a low-key but levelheaded and supportive friend to Maxwell who could, one day, be more. The series continues in the next installment, Maxwell Parker, Love Doctor (2016).
A humorous, entertaining story of an aspiring detective who finds her inner moxie.