Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Review of Death by Denim by Linda Gerber

This is one of the more intriguing mystery titles you’ll come across, perhaps even more so than the title of Gerber’s first book in the Aphra Connolly series, Death by Bikini. (Book 2 was Death by Latte.) I hope you’re not too squeamish to imagine just how denim might be used as a murder weapon.

Aphra began her adventures in Book One at a private resort run by her father on a remote tropical island. That’s where she met Seth Mulo, who was in hiding with his parents from some deadly enemies. In her attempts to uncover Seth’s secrets, Aphra inadvertently gave the bad guys the location of Seth’s family. So it seems like cosmic payback that in Book Three, Aphra and her mother are now in hiding themselves from the Mole, a rogue CIA operative with way too much power. Of course, Aphra does get to sneak around out in Paris instead of in Dulltown, USA, which is way more fun for readers.

As acting school librarian (long story), I often get requests for books for teens, and more and more of the kids are saying that they don’t want “a boring story.” In that case, the Aphra Connolly books are a good choice. In the first few pages of Death by Denim, Aphra and her mother realize they’ve been discovered by their enemies. The rest of the book is mostly about trying to get away from the Mole and his minions. Death by Denim moves fast.

There are delicious twists and turns along the way, with Gerber revisiting her theme of “Who can you trust?” Unfortunately, Aphra doesn’t always get it right. Relying on her less-than-stellar skills at evasive maneuvers, she leaves her mother behind, then ends up leading the Mole right to Seth Mulo and his parents, who are now hiding in Italy. (I’m pretty sure Seth and Aphra have yet to go on a date, not unless you count running around trying not to get shot. It’s hard to maintain a long-distance relationship when one person is in the international version of the Witness Protection Program, let alone when both are.)

Death by Denim represents a turning point in this series. As the book ends, Aphra is thinking about college, having defeated her arch nemesis. She has also been recruited for a whole new role in the world of espionage (though not by her protective CIA agent mother). Since too many series writers end up producing what is essentially the same plot over and over, I really like the way this author refuses to let her series stagnate.

If your daughters have been reading Alex Rider, introduce them to Aphra Connolly. She’s the perfect fit for a generation of text-messaging girls who want an adventurous read featuring a young shero.

Note for Worried Parents: Gerber’s books are remarkably wholesome considering that they’re Young Adult titles, but they do include a lot of peril and the occasional action/adventure-type death.

Disclosure Note: Linda Gerber is in my long-time writing group. She's at work on another action-packed YA series with Puffin.

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