Wednesday, March 14, 2012

MG Historical Fiction: Behind the Masks by Susan Patron

Series: Dear America
Publisher: Scholastic
Date: January 1, 2012
Format: hardback
Acquired: from the publisher
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book in return for an honest review.)
Pages: 290
Reading time: one morning

From GoodReads: Growing up in the wild gold-mining town of Bodie, California, in the 1880s, Angeline Reddy has seen it all -- saloons, brawls, and a whole lot of desperation. When her father, Bodie's greatest lawyer, is declared murdered, Angie knows deep in her heart that he isn't dead and decides it is up to her to solve the mystery of what happened to him. But when her mother takes ill and a mysterious ghost appears, putting together the puzzle pieces seems impossible. Not to mention, a gang of vigilantes, the 601, is raging out of control, running folks out of town, and nobody seems safe. Will Angie, with the help of her friends Ellie and Ling Loi, and the mysterious and tragically handsome Antoine, be able to uncover the secret of her father's disappearance?

My review: I was a bit worried that the latest addition to Scholastic's Dear America series would fall to the stereotypes of the "Wild West," but Behind the Masks generally managed, as with the rest of the series, to rise above what is expected. Like the rest of the excellent series, it provides a tale rich in historical detail - albeit this time with a touch of mystery and ghostliness. 

Having been a fan of Dear America since early elementary school, I found Behind the Masks to match the historical accuracy of the earlier books, bringing to life the time period and the characters for readers. Being a more discerning reader than I was in elementary school, I also found parts - mostly the mystery ones - to seem a little rushed and confusing. Other than that, however, the author presents a lifelike young voice from the time period. I learned quite a lot about California frontier life, especially its socio-political aspects, from reading this! I also appreciated that Angeline is not the all-perfect character; her "sidekicks" are as every bit as important to the uncovering of the Bodie mystery as is she. Behind the Masks is certainly a welcome and satisfactory addition to the series!

First sentence: I known I'm going to have to look in Papa's casket just to prove he's not in it.

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