Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

genre: young adult/middle grade fiction
book 1 of 25 for the 2010 Young Adult Literature Challenge

It's funny, I'm strangely pleased that this is my first book review of the year, it feels like a great place to start: clever and mysterious, wacky and full of people that are full of faults.

What is the Westing Game? It's this crazy stunt pulled by the deceased owner of the Westing Paper Company. He hand-selects (with one mistake) 16 heirs, to whom he gives clues to determine the winner of his fortune - if they can survive the game. You've got a Chinese immigrant, a bird-watching teenager in a wheelchair, a bookie, a shin-kicking 13 year old and a...murderer? It's a race to the finish to figure out who killed Sam Westing and who will be the new millionaire.

This story grabbed me from the beginning, but I'll admit, it took me a long time to keep all the characters straight! They all live together in one apartment building, so I was constantly trying to remember who belonged with whom. In the end, though, I think that this giant cast of characters is really one of the novel's strengths. A group of completely random people are turned into a community after going through some serious stress and trouble. Everyone is deeper than you think and I loved learning about all their not-obvious interconnectedness. I loved the sparing way that Raskin handed out clues - even until the very end you weren't positive of what really happened.

This is not a dumbed down mystery for kids, Raskin made sure of that. You need to stretch your brain to follow the action and even the sympathetic characters have issues. It actually reminded me a lot of the movie Clue, you know, with Tim Curry and Madeline Kahn - and coming from me, that's one of the better compliments I could give a book.


Fyrefly said...

Was this your first time reading it? I absolutely loved this book when I was younger, although I haven't re-read it in quite a while.

bermudaonion said...

I think my son read this when he was younger too. I'm going to have to ask him. It sounds great!

Corinne said...

Fyrefly - it WAS my first time! It's a shame I never found this one in my youth, I think I would've loved it :)

Deb said...

this is one of my favs. i haven't read it for a long time. i'll have to put it on my reread list.

Amanda said...

Oh I loved this book growing up! I remember I was re-reading it (again) and was with my parents traveling (for some reason) and I looked at the hotel tower we were staying at it was the Westing Tower. I was so excited! I've re-read this book many times and it's still a favorite.

Anna said...

I'll have to re-read this one at some point. I read it in school...I think it was 6th grade. I remember liking it, but I'm long past remembering the details. Glad you enjoyed it.

Diary of an Eccentric

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