THE CRABTREE MONSTERS

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Kat Dylan isn’t your typical teenager. Sure, she has boy problems and school problems and sometimes wishes her little brother, Alec, weren’t around. But she’s also smart as heck, an amateur investigator who has police work in her genes—her father is a detective in Los Angeles, and her grandfather is chief of police in Crabtree, Michigan. Her parents are divorced, and when her mother is deployed to Afghanistan, Kat and her brother reluctantly move to Crabtree until their father can figure out something about after-school care. Crabtree isn’t the slow, lazy town it seems to be, 13-year-old Kat and 10-year-old Alec soon find. They get caught in the middle of a bank robbery that lands their grandfather behind bars. Wieland has created quite the lively hero in Kat—a teenager with a crackling sense of humor who’s not afraid of a fight and has a talent for investigation. She, Alec, and their friend Tommy go after the robbers, dubbed “The Monster Gang” because of the Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, and Mummy masks they wear. Wieland weaves a tale full of adventure and humor, though the resolution is a bit far-fetched. Kat is a somewhat layered heroine. Yes, she’s funny and adventuresome, but she also can be sad, longing for the friends and family she left behind in LA. Adding to her authenticity is her ambivalence toward Tommy, who could be a love interest. There are a few moments where Kat sounds wiser than she should be at her age, as when she tells someone they need to “workshop” their jokes. For the most part, though, it’s fun to be on an adventure with this modern-day Nancy Drew.

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