Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Strange Times at Western High

Strange Times at Western High, by Emily Pohl-Weary

Strange Times at Western High forms the first entry in an anticipated Natalie Fuentes Mystery Series. There is at least one more book scheduled for release in 2007. Natalie is a new girl at school. Unlike the Barbie Doll blondes who run the place, Natalie is alterna-cool. We know this because she has red streaks in her hair, multiple piercings in her ears, and she publishes her own Zine.

Things get off to a rocky start for Natalie when she takes a shortcut into the school in order to avoid the blondes. Natalie witnesses the school caretaker being attacked, and she decides that she has to find out who did it and why, especially when she begins to receive threats and learns that this is not the first attack at the school. Natalie teams up with a motley array of academic goody girl types, graffiti artists, hackers, and even a jock to both learn to fit in at her new school and solve a mystery.

In an interesting twist on the "my mom/dad is a detective and so am I" theme, Natalie's parents are investigative journalist - but she gets her real detective sense from her love of Nancy Drew.

This is quite an urban story, there is a lot of discussion of race and mention of different faith groups, and the school faces many of the issues that come up in urban school environments. I mention this because I think it is unique amongst the new teen mysteries I've read this year, and somewhat refreshing. It has more of a sense of being current than many of the others.

On the whole, I think this is an enjoyable little mystery, gripping through to the end, and I'm looking forward to the next installment.

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