My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Open If You Dare begins with a mysterious box found by three best friends who live in Georgia.
From the start, we are thrust into a complicated emotional dilemma between eleven-year-old Birdie Adams and one of her best friends. It’s a one-sided dilemma because Birdie wrestles with a decision that could hurt her best friend, which is the last thing she wants to do.
It’s easy to enter into Bird’s world, a supportive family, and best friend’s who are thick as thieves: the pragmatic Rose, and Ally, the shining star of the pitching mound. Best friends since the first grade, but after summer they’ll each go separate ways, with Rose moving back to England and middle school separating Bird from Ally. Bird won’t know anyone at middle school and she’s not looking forward to it.
It’s their last summer together, and the girls plan on making every day count. Making plans on their special island under the willow tree, they discover a wire and the wire leads to a box underground, with the warning: OPEN IF YOU DARE.
The girls dare to open the box, and inside, they find the written words of a twelve-year-old girl from 1973, a mystery and clues. Bird becomes obsessed even when her best friends grow tired of trying to figure out what happened to a Rosie Delgado, the author of the note or the dead girl she mentions.
One clue leads to another, but life holds up Bird’s sleuthing. Her family counts on her to watch her little sister, Zora. Bird’s a very good big sister – until the one day she isn’t. That one moment in the chain-of-events, Bird wishes she could change because she didn’t do the right thing for her best friend when she should have.
Our choices have consequences, as does our lack of making the right decision. Bird learns this the hard way. One of the worst feelings is when you want to turn back the clock to help a loved one, or two, in this case.
Bird’s heartfelt conversation with her mom near the end choked me up. This book shares the pains of growing up, growing apart, and eventually learning to trust yourself and make connections on your own, and the excitement that comes with that journey. It’s a huge part of growing up. There’s a fantastic twist near the end.
A fun and compelling mysterious adventure for middle-grade readers ages 9-12. Expected publication: October 17th, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
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Dana Middleton grew up in Georgia before moving to Los Angeles to work in film, television and theatre. She was a producer of an Academy Award-nominated short film, and is also a recipient of a Los Angeles Theatre Ovation Award. Her debut children’s book, The Infinity Year of Avalon James, was published last year, and her new novel, Open If You Dare, is out this October. She lives in Hollywood with her British husband, author and screenwriter, Peter Atkins.
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