In a small Maine town, struggling with how—or whether—to have friends, a girl follows a trail of cryptic paper clues.
Ruth used to have a best friend, but now that they’re in sixth grade, Charlotte’s joined the popular crowd instead. No matter: Ruth prefers being a lone wolf. When an old envelope containing a riddle falls out of a library book, she imagines undertaking a quest similar to those in her favorite fantasy novels. One clue leads to another, but they’re confusing; Ruth needs help. Everything feels awkward. Whether to join the spelling bee, whether to tell her doctor Mom to stop forcing playdates and her business-traveling Mum how much she misses her, and whether to offer Charlotte illicit help on a quiz after Charlotte’s home burns down, leaving her and her dads homeless—all options feel mournful and fraught. Blakemore peppers her navigating-social-awkwardness arc with myriad topics—puberty, geography, literature, science (whales produce ear wax; snow quiets the air)—all more compelling than the quest riddles and frequent, intrusive insertions about Ruth’s current fantasy read. Ruth never grasps her own role in Charlotte’s departure from their friendship, while a new friend who owes apologies never gives them; still, Ruth ends her quest with satisfying new connections.
Not so much for puzzlers as for patient observers of social growth who enjoy varied intellectual and philosophical tidbits. (Fiction. 9-12)