Beyond Books

Mini-Reviews: Scars, Sleuth or Dare Books 1 & 2

Yeah, so, you may have noticed that I have been a slacker-pants and haven’t posted anything in forever. Well, I have been so bucy I just don’t have TIME for anything. But the OCD part of me can’t let this blog go without having a post for every book I read, so I’m combining some into one. Weird mix because, well, YA ISSUE NOVEL and MIDDLE GRADE MYSTERY aren’t exactly the same thing.

by Cheryl Rainfield

Kendra, fifteen, hasn’t felt safe since she began to recall devastating memories of childhood sexual abuse, especially because she still can’t remember the most important detail– her abuser’s identity. Frightened, Kendra believes someone is always watching and following her, leaving menacing messages only she understands. If she lets her guard down even for a minute, it could cost Kendra her life. To relieve the pressure, Kendra cuts; aside from her brilliantly expressive artwork, it’s her only way of coping. Since her own mother is too self-absorbed to hear her cries for help, Kendra finds support in others instead: from her therapist and her art teacher, from Sandy, the close family friend who encourages her artwork, and from Meghan, the classmate who’s becoming a friend and maybe more. But the truth about Kendra’s abuse is just waiting to explode, with startling unforeseen consequences. (

(Read September 3) You know me and my issue novel obsession, so of course I really, really wanted to love this one. I just couldn’t get into it fully though. I find I am very picky when I read novels about cutting. Sometimes I feel like it’s just so forced that it seems like it was written just for shock value. I didn’t quite feel that way about Scars, but it flirted the line between real and over-the-top in my mind. I think my main problem with the book was how it seemed as though there was too much going on at once. Kendra had a ton of issues, including being followed and threatened by some mystery person. I couldn’t decide if this book wanted to be a mystery/suspense or an issue novel. Have to say I was completely surprised by the ending though and for that I liked the book much more than I would have.  Also, I’m not belittling the emotional seriousness of the topic, but my own personal history just makes me a lot more picky about how these issues are presented in a book. Yet, I can’t seem to get enough of them. 😉

Partners in Crime (Sleuth or Dare, #1)
by Kim Harrington


When best friends Darcy and Norah have to create a fake business for a school assignment, they come up with a great idea: a detective agency! Darcy loves mysteries, and Norah likes helping people, so it’s a perfect fit.

But then their pretend agency gets a real case. Someone is missing, and it’s up to Darcy and Norah to take on the search. Unfortunately, there’s someone else out there who doesn’t want the two detectives stirring up any trouble. . . .

With the help of hidden clues, spy gadgets, and trusted friends, can Darcy and Norah crack the case in time? (

(Read September 13) If you’re looking for a fun, cute middle grade mystery for your kids (or your grown-up self), look no further than these Sleuth or Dare books by Kim Harrington. If you recall I raved about her YA series (Clarity & Perception) earlier this year. They were honest-to-goodness fun mysteries à la Nancy Drew or Buffy. The lovely Gail from Ticket to Anywhere picked up the three MG books for me at an event near here this summer. I found the mystery in the first book pretty interesting and original and I was enjoying it immensely. One thing did bother me though and it has to do with the ending so I don’t even know how to explain it without spoiling the end of the mystery. It was something that REALLY bothered me though. Maybe I’ll post it in comments and you can not read it if you haven’t read the books.

Sleepover Stakeout (Sleuth or Dare, #2)
by Kim Harrington


Norah and Darcy’s detective agency, Partners in Crime, is taking on a new and chilling case. The girls’ classmate, Maya, is hearing strange, crackling voices coming over the baby monitor while she’s babysitting late at night. Maya is worried someone might be in danger.

To help investigate, Norah and Darcy join her for a sleepover stakeout. In between eating snacks and watching TV, the girls are on high alert for anything suspicious. Soon, they stumble upon a mysterious secret they never could have imagined — but Norah and Darcy clash over how to interpret the new clues.

Can the girls get past their differences to see their way to the truth? (

(Read September 23) This series continued to entertain me and make me long for the days of reading The Babysitter’s Club and Judy Blume books. They are short and the mysteries are well written so you think you’re onto something dark and dangerous but not too scary! I did, however, find this book much scarier than the first (and I say scary in a light-hearted way). Hearing voices through a baby monitor is something that freaks me out though, so I was just as nervous as Darcy, Norah and Maya while they were out late at night. There’s something about this series that just makes me happy. I’d likely have loved them all when I was under 10. The dialogue is realistic, the characters are very imaginable as middle graders (with the discovery of first crushes, cool crowds, fitting in) and they are pretty likable, too. I had totally planned on finishing all three books in September but that didn’t happen. Which is sad because these aren’t very long books! I just have so little time to focus on anything anymore.

And that’s all she wrote, folks. I have two more books to blog about and I will give them each their own posts. At some point. Maybe this weekend. It’s a long weekend here (oh, hi, post-dated post! Look at me writing from the future!) but I have a group project and research paper to work on, so… we’ll see.


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