Alpha Academic Press is pleased to announce the second novel by the renowned author of Joshua's Island. Kelsey Callahan is smart, tough and fiercely loyal to her friends. She wants nothing more than to follow in her father's footsteps and become a detective just like her hero, Sherlock Holmes. A natural leader, problem-solver and lover of mysteries, Kelsey finally gets the chance to solve a mystery of her own when Ethan, a cute but enigmatic loner, appears in her class. At first mildly infatuated with him, she becomes even more fascinated by his behavior: namely, that he dresses like a 'bad boy' but doesn't act like one. As her friendship with Ethan deepens, Kelsey soon learns that there are events at play in Ethan's life that are both tragic and dangerous: events that, the deeper she digs, could end up threatening not only their relationship but their very lives.
After hearing a lot of buzz about this book's predecessor, I decided to jump in and take a look. I wasn't disappointed. It was an entertaining read, yet was also a terrific coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of bullying.
That's not as depressing as it sounds, because author Patrick Hodges created good, believeable characters. Not a Mary Sue in sight. However, as I reached the book's end, whilst I was happy with it, I wanted more, and with Ethan's Secret, we get more.
Frankly, had I known one of the characters from the first book was taking a major role in this one, I think I would have snapped it up earlier. Error corrected. I grabbed book three at the same time as getting Ethan's Secret.
I was't sure where the author would take us this time. And I was unsure whether I wanted to read more about school bullies. If I could go back in time, I would have started martial arts training at age 1, not 13. Bullies only remain bullies to you if you let them. I found once they were hit, they kind of deflated.
And here's the beauty and realism of the author's writing, and also why this is a superior book to its older brother. In one scene a bully is referred to as a beach ball, because one punch and they deflate easily. So true!
So children - if you are reading this book or have read Joshua's Island, remember you can be the happy child at school. Bullies are idiots who use their aggression to make themselves feel better.
However, this is not just a book for children. It clearly pays homage to the Nancy Drew mysteries and the wholesome quirkiness of many of Judy Blume's books, both of which I read when growing up as a kid.
Ethan is the new boy, and like all new boys at school, he's mysterious, brooding and to some of the schoolchildren....he is cool! The author has not inserted a character cliche, in fact, as you read one chapter narrated by Kelsey you will then be reading Ethan's thoughts next. I thought this was a really clever way to write characters and etch their behaviours, thoughts and motivations into our minds. Within a couple of chapters, readers can easily get a handle on who Kelsey and Ethan are.
"So children - if you are reading this book or have read Joshua's Island, remember you can be the happy child at school. Bullies are idiots who use their aggression to make themselves feel better."
Kelsey is one of the girls who does take a shine to Ethan. And we are treated (with annoying levels of skill by the author) to the behaviours of 13 year olds finding themselves attracted to the opposite sex for the first time. It's a confusing age for anyone. But this is just one of many layered plot lines that the author gives us.
Ultimately, what is Ethan's Secret? Is he desperate to fit in to the 'bad boys' group - a rock group fronted by Bono hating Baz (Sebastian). Ethan wears black all the time. He's not hiding something...all kids do this, I know I did.
But Kelsey can't leave it there. She has a book that she has read four times - a Sherlock Holmes novel and her father is in the police force. So Miss Detective tries to uncover things whilst still getting close to Ethan, and doesn't want to hurt him, because she finds herself falling for him.
Then, there's the interaction between her friends, like April, Bree and Penny. It all works, because on some level the dialogue, though well presented, annoyed me because I was thinking 'wow, girls really do talk like this'....and it's the same when Ethan, his brother Logan and members of the group chat. Boys being boys.
I nitpicked over Joshua's Island and it is true that you could read either book as a standalone, but is best to read JI first.
Kelsey is one of the best characters I have encountered in a book for quite some time. I would have perhaps preferred a title of Kelsey's.....something (!) but I guess the treat for us readers is that Kelsey is every bit a strong character as is Ethan in this book.
I really loved the interplay between Kelsey and her father....I might have added a few more arguments here and there but it's better that K-Bear (his pet name for her) doesn't fight much with him. The dynamics are clearly drawn out and have been thought over. I don't think there is a scene in the book that the author didn't work hard on.
There's also an amazing, poignant scene between Kelsey and one of her friends.
In essence, whilst keeping the story wholesome and accessible for all ages, the author treats serious subjects with dignity...and yes - a sense of humour.
The ending is tremendous....it has me thinking 'oh it could have ended like this...or that'...but it is not my book. This is one ending the author has offered us, and that, much like all that precedes it, I am sure will be welcomed by readers.
Onto book three in due course!