Gr 5-7-After an epigraph, prologue, and first chapter that increasingly pull readers in deeper and deeper, The Great Unexpected-part realistic fiction, part mystery, and part ghost story-disappoints. In the small, probably Southern town of Blackbird Tree, orphaned 12-year-old Naomi Deane receives a whack on the head as an inert boy tumbles down from a tree. Joined by her motormouth friend, Lizzie Scatterding, she pronounces the boy "dead," but he soon sits up and starts asking questions in a strange accent-clearly, he's not from around there. Naomi Deane's narration constitutes the bulk of the story, but every third or fourth chapter takes place "Across the Ocean" in a grand Irish estate, where readers follow the antics of elderly companions Mrs. Kavanagh and Miss Pilpenny. Creech gradually reveals the connections between the two story lines; clues appear in appropriately small doses that will appeal to young detectives. But a confusing narrative style makes the book hard to follow. Instead of consistently using a progressive or episodic structure for either plotline, Creech alternates between the two, which places readers in an uncomfortably disorienting position upon beginning each chapter: Does this start where we left off, or have several weeks passed? Overuse of quirky and alliterative names such as "the dapper Dingle Dangle man," the "dim Dimmenses," "Crazy Cora," and "Witch Wiggins" distracts from the story. For better-told small-town adventures and rich language, try Richard Peck's A Long Way from Chicago (Dial, 1998) or Susan Patron's The Higher Power of Lucky (S & S, 2006).-Allison Bruce, The Berkeley Carrol School, Brooklyn, NY (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.