How do you solve a mystery involving stolen artwork? Sometimes you need to make all the right mistakes.
Stephen is a seventh-grader who follows his father’s philosophy that making mistakes can be a good thing; a mistake implies you’ve tried something new and you’re pushing yourself to accept new challenges in life. One of these challenges may be starting a friendship with a girl. Renée is very different from Steven—she loves bright colors and has a dramatic flair that makes people notice her. The two kids (both evidently white) are a mismatched pair, much like the dog duo of hyperactive Ping (a Jack Russell) and quiet Pong (a greyhound) that Stephen walks for his father’s dog-walking business. While out walking the dogs, Stephen and Renée begin to notice odd occurrences: public artwork in their neighborhood is disappearing. When Renée’s graffiti-artist brother falls under suspicion, it’s up to Stephen and Renée to prove his innocence. Although the premise is interesting, drowsy pacing and unnatural dialogue slow the plot to a putter. Loud and vibrant Renée is written as a brash one-note character, while quiet Stephen is inconsistent, both dubious about having a girl as a friend and happy to knit the night away. The matter-of-fact introduction of Stephen’s caregiving father and globe-trotting mother is pleasingly refreshing, but it doesn’t save the story’s humdrum narrative. Mystery lovers may find more excitement in Chasing Vermeer or When You Reach Me.
An uphill trek. (Mystery. 10-12)