You've Got Blackmail by Rachel Wright is breathlessly paced, laugh-out-loud funny and increasingly gripping; a sparky, suspenseful comic mystery sure to be a winner with adolescent girls everywhere.
Rachel Wright grew up in Bermuda, England, the Seychelles, and Fiji. She used to be an actress (after gaining a degree in drama in 1982, I worked as an actress for BBC Radio and various theatre companies, including one I co-founded with a friend) but now she writes full-time. (In 1989 I produced my first children's non-fiction book and it's been pretty non-stop since.) Her works include more than 40 children's non-fiction books on numerous subjects including historical events, the arts, unexplained phenomena and criminal investigation. (I've also had published a dozen or so short stories featuring the Where's Wally characters created by Martin Handford.) And she has never knowingly blackmailed anyone...except, of course, her sister. (This last bit is rubbish, obviously, although I am wanted on five continents for extorting money with menaces.)
Wright's first novel (she's written several works of children's nonfiction), a U.K. import, reads with an unmistakable accent ("Bloody Nora" is a frequent exclamation). This campy story follows Lauren "Lozzie" Cracknell, who is having a spell of bad luck. Her parents have separated, her father just moved into the same building as Tonya Ravonia (the school bully) and her mother may be dating Mr. Barnett, Lozzie's "unreasonablest" teacher. ("Well, isn't that fab! Dad and Mrs. Ravonia are the best of pals and Mum's practically doing-the-do with Mr. B. I may as well kill myself now and save Tonya the bother.") In the midst of these crises, Lozzie and her best friend Dex discover a blackmail note to Mr. Barnett. As they try to figure out who would want to blackmail him, the story line becomes more convoluted as Lozzie's room is ransacked, items stolen and revelations about Mr. Barnett surface. The plot is far-fetched and certain subjects (e.g., Lozzie's feelings about her parents' separation) are glossed over, but reluctant readers may still enjoy this fast-paced, easy read. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
Gr 6-9-Lauren Cracknell, 14, is constantly getting into trouble. When she is not hanging out at her mother's hair salon with her friend Dex, she is busy snooping in her sister's room or emailing the entire grade an embarrassing photo of the class bully. After forgetting to mail invitations to an important salon event, she is forced to deliver them on a bike. As the messenger, she is inadvertently implicated in a blackmail scheme. The victim is none other than her crabby English teacher whom Lauren fears is dating her newly separated mom. The teen must figure out who is blackmailing her teacher and why before someone gets hurt. Wright's novel is fast paced and light and her characters are likable and upbeat. However, many readers may have trouble connecting with the British slang, making this quirky read an additional purchase.-Kimberly Garnick Giarratano, Rockaway Township Public Library, NJ Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.