Like many female mystery readers, I enjoyed diving into Nancy Drew books as a young girl. I would venture to say my interest in being a writer was sparked by the adventures of these stories. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys have never gone out of style, nor have mysteries for young people.
In fact, a new mystery series by Kim Harrington called Sleuth or Dare debuts this week with the first novel, Partners in Crime. Harrington's popular young adult series, Clarity, about a clairvoyant teen named Clare is already a big hit with adolescents. So why did Harrington decide to write a middle grade series?
I enjoy combining mystery and humor and this works so well in middle grade. And I love how enthusiastic middle grade readers are. When they love a book, they LOVE the book and read it repeatedly and get so attached to the characters. And, on a personal note, my son is a middle grade reader and I wanted to write a book he might enjoy.
Sleuth or Dare: Partners in Crime, stars best friends, Norah and Darcy who are quite the opposites. Norah, the narrator of the story, is studious, reserved, and always wants to do the right thing. Darcy is adventurous, is a computer geek and into crime scene shows. They might appear to be different from the outside, as Harrington says, but they are actually right for each other. She explains:
Norah quietly blends into the background while Darcy has more of an edge to her. But they've been best friends since they became neighbors in fourth grade and, despite their differences, the friendship works -- with a lot of humor!
What I love most about them is that they're nerds and proud of it. And they have their own interests and hobbies that they unapologetically geek out over. Norah's biggest aspiration isn't to become one of the popular girls. It's to be an astronomer. She thinks more about math than nail polish. And Darcy is a tech guru and spy gadget lover. I can totally see her becoming a CIA analyst. They are so much fun to write!
For a class project, they need to create a fake business. So, Norah and Darcy decide to make a detective agency. At first, Norah isn't so sure. She doesn't have a clue what it takes to be a detective. But Darcy has does. She regales Norah with her cool idea which also includes creating a fake website. Norah, finally, agrees it's a good idea. That is, until they receive a mysterious e-mail. Someone needs their help... with a missing person.
According to Harrington, Sleuth or Dare was originally planned for a trilogy with each novel ending on a cliffhanger. Yet, she adds, there's always a chance more mysteries for Norah and Darcy to solve down the road. Partners in Crime is a cute, funny and suspenseful mystery young people will enjoy. As for the mystery of the missing person, it's not scary but the girls end up getting into precarious situations. I kind of had an inkling who the missing person was and who possibly was behind it, but the story definitely kept me on my toes and turning the pages to find out how Darcy and Norah would figure it out.
As for the main characters, Harrington explains why she decided to use Norah's voice to tell the story: "As a girl, I was actually a lot like Norah. My editor and I joke around about it. Norah is who I was, while Darcy's who I wanted to be. Norah's POV just felt more natural to me."
Harrington has been a mystery fan for as long as she can remember. Growing up she loved horror stories and always asked her father if he could read them to her. One of her best memories of reading as a child was at ten years old. At the time, her father was reading Pet Sematary by Stephen King. They read it together, out loud, taking turns page by page. Anytime Harrington would skip a swear word her father would laugh. She says:
This is probably considered questionable parenting to some. But it's one of my favorite memories. And all that time spent with my father discussing not just Pet Sematary but many books after that, turned me into a voracious reader and, eventually, a writer. Dad and I still share and discuss books constantly. A couple years ago I turned him into a Hunger Games fan.
She also remembers whenever a Scholastic Book Clubs flyer came out at school, she would circle any book with a dark or spooky cover and beg her parents for it. But the book series she loved the most was the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. Saying, even then she wanted to be in charge of the choices her characters made! She goes on: "My favorite mystery/crime fiction authors now are Harlan Coben (the master of the twist), Dennis Lehane (the king of Boston), and Gillian Flynn (unrelentingly dark and brilliant)."
Sleuth or Dare will consist of two other books, Sleepover Stakeout and Framed and Dangerous which will both be released this summer. As for Partners in Crime, Kim says what she likes readers to take away with them:
First and foremost, I want them to be entertained. I want them to say they couldn't put it down and were shocked at the twists and turns. But, speaking as a nerd myself, if any little nerds out there read the books, I want them take away to be that they are awesome. They should be proud of who they are. That's really why I wanted to write a book where the nerds are the heroes--for them and for my ten-year-old self.
Sleuth or Dare: Partners in Crime was released May 1st. Pick up a copy and enjoy!
Photo used with permission by Scholastic.