Friday, March 20, 2009

The Westing Game: Ellen Raskin

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin is on almost every young adult booklist. It is a book that I thought I had read as a student and really enjoyed, so I decided to go back for a re-read. However, by the time I finished the first chapter I knew that I was mistaken. So this was a new read for me, and I really enjoyed it. I can see why it's on all the best booklists!

The Westing Game is really a murder mystery game, orchestrated by Sam Westing. With a cast of 16 possible Westing heirs and their various sidekicks, The Westing Game reads a bit like a game of Clue. From page one I was pulled into the plot of piecing together the mystery of Sam Westing's death. With such a large cast of suspects, every person holds a secret that is key to the truth. I was most entertained by Mrs. Hoo--the Chinese woman who speaks practically no English. After a bomber starts setting off bombs in the apartment building, Mrs. Hoo learns the word "boom" and walks around frightening people by cheerfully saying "Boom!" and smiling like an idiot.

I admit that I am a fan of stories that wrap up neatly in the end. Reality is harsh enough--when I read a story or see a movie, I want a plausible though improbable happy ending. I want to put down the book with a smile and the knowledge that it's really possible for the guy to get the girl and the bad guy to get thrown in jail. The Westing Game ties up very neatly without being too trite. For a young adult book, this is a very mature story that doesn't talk down to young readers, while still appealing to an adult audience.

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