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A Reader of Fictions: Review: The Wig in the Window

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Monday, June 17, 2013

Review: The Wig in the Window

The Wig in the Window

Author: Kristen Kittscher
Pages: 368
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: June 18, 2013
Read: June
Source: ARC from publisher for review

Description from Goodreads:
Best friends and seventh graders Sophie Young and Grace Yang have made a game out of spying on their neighbors. On one of their midnight stakeouts, they witness a terrifying, bloody scene at the home of their bizarre middle-school counselor, Dr. Charlotte Agford (aka Dr. Awkward).

At least, they think they do. The truth is that Dr. Agford was only making her famous pickled beets! But when Dr. Agford begins acting even weirder than usual, Sophie and Grace become convinced that she’s hiding something—and they’re determined to find out what it is.

Soon the girls are breaking secret codes, being followed by a strange blue car, and tailing strangers with unibrows and Texas accents. But as their investigation heats up, Sophie and Grace start to crack under the pressure. They might solve their case, but will their friendship survive?

Perfect for fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Wig in the Window is a smart, funny middle-grade mystery with a REAR WINDOW twist.

First Sentence: "I thought I'd mastered the art of escape."

Kristen Kittscher's debut caught my eye with that brilliantly adorable cover, one which perfectly captures the book itself, which makes it even better. Though mysteries aren't my genre of choice, I couldn't resist checking this one out, because of the Rear Window connection. Pop culture references are for the win always. The Wig in the Window is above all a story of friendship and courage, with plenty of humor and adventure to keep readers of all ages entertained.

The first thing I need to give Kittscher props for is how the mystery plays out. Reading mysteries intended for younger readers can be imminently frustrating for an adult, because the children often fail to note the most obvious of clues and the guilty party is clear from the first pages. This was not the case in The Wig in the Window. Kittscher adds evidence steadily, and keeps pulling the rug out from under Sophie's feet. Sophie does have a bit of a tendency to jump to conclusions, but she's never blindly oblivious to the facts in front of her.

In fact, Sophie and her friends don't do a lot of the inadvisable things kids in novels often do. When they think they've witnessed a murder by their next door neighbor, they contact the authorities. They try to rely on and trust adults with information, but receive contradictory information and end up having to do the best they can alone. In addition to snooping around, since they like to pretend they're in the FBI, they also do Google searches. Sophie and Grace approach the situation as logically as they can.

For me, the most meaningful aspect of The Wig in the Window is the friendship between amateur investigators Grace and Sophie. They've been friends since Sophie's family moved to the neighborhood, and go by Young (Sophie) and Yang (Grace). However, all is not perfect in their friendship, and the real mystery to solve brings all their issues to the surface. Sophie has always felt like the sidekick, following Grace's lead, which was fine until Sophie got in trouble for falsely reporting a murder and Grace didn't. Now Sophie feels abandoned, and has a chance to really come into her own, however painful that may be. They really have to learn to appreciate one another and not take their friendship for granted, which can happen in long term relationships of any sort.

At school, Sophie's other friends ditch her in the wake of the reporting-the-school-counselor-for-murder scandal. In this awkward time, she's befriended by Trista, overweight and picked on (called Boom-Boom-Bottoms by the school's resident bully, who calls Sophie Ay-nus, a play off her French class name Agnes). Trista's totally my favorite character. She's sassy, can out-insult the bullies, loves herself for who she is, and has her friends' backs. Plus, she's a really healthy eater, so Kittscher's conveying that it's not necessarily lifestyle alone that leads to weight gain.

The one thing that left me really uncomfortable was the portrayal of Charlotte Agford, the school counselor that Grace and Sophie think they see commit murder. Whether or not she's the villain, some of the descriptions for her made me really uncomfortable. She has this giant hair, which turns out to be a wig, and huge fake breasts, both of which are repeatedly used as evidence essentially that she's evil, and I'm just not really cool with that. There were a couple of other characters described in unsettling ways, but Agford is the best example. Whether someone's a good or bad person shouldn't be bound up in their appearance.

The Wig in the Window is a fun mystery, sure to delight middle grade readers. There's humor, action, friendship, and even a little bit of romance. I'm glad to have read it, but am left a bit unsure about the overall message.

Rating: 3/5

Favorite Quote: "It turned out the single known acceptable case of parents repeating themselves ad nauseum was when they were gushing about how wrong they were."

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Blogger fakesteph said...

This sounds cute. I'm always looking for a good middle grade and I love mysteries. I'm not sure how I'll feel about some of the descriptions you mention, although now I'm curious to see what that's all about.

June 18, 2013 at 2:52 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I would be interested to see if someone else had a similar reaction to those descriptions. Struck me as a bit less funny than upsetting, but maybe I'm overreacting.

June 18, 2013 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger Jenni @ Alluring Reads said...

I love how this one really focuses on the friendship, I love that about MG, not much romance to be found. Boom-Boom-Bottoms ha so clever bullies! The description of the councillor is definitely weird, I don't see how those things make somebody evil. But I'm happy that you liked this one so much overall. I'll have to grab it!

June 18, 2013 at 9:13 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yeah, the only romance was that she had a crush on a boy in her class, and it seems like he likes her too. They're young though, so they're not doing anything about it yet. Haha. But they have little codes and text each other. Super cute.

June 18, 2013 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger Gina R said...

I hear you. I immediately thought of REAR WINDOW as well when reading about this one...and the cover is definitely a winner! Sounds like this one kept things mum til the end...awesome. On the wish list it goes. Thanks for the share! Happy reading.

June 18, 2013 at 11:23 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

The cover is so adorbs. I like that the mystery wasn't dumbed down for the audience, nor do I think it's too complicated for the younger readers to get. :)

June 18, 2013 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger Pabkins said...

Amateur investigators! hehe Love it - too bad it wasn't better I am quite particular about my middlegrade fiction. Have you tried The School for Good and Evil?

June 18, 2013 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yes, I did read that one. I really really liked it, but I listened to the audio and the narrator was perfection. Not sure how I would have felt in print, honestly.

June 18, 2013 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger kimbacaffeinate said...

This sounds cute and I like the whole friendship focus, thanks for sharing this one!

June 18, 2013 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

No problem. It's nice getting more lessons on friendship from younger books. Would like to see that more in YA.

June 18, 2013 at 1:36 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

This sounds adorable and my type of novel to be honest. I often enjoy the lessons on friendship in middle school books.

June 18, 2013 at 4:20 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Teens and adults need friendship lessons too, but it's almost always romance/marriage. Sigh.

June 18, 2013 at 4:20 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

I got the audiobook of this one for review. I should be starting this one soon. It sounds fun. I like that there is a good friendship in it.

June 19, 2013 at 8:24 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yes, middle grade is great because it's all about friendship!

June 19, 2013 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger roro said...

i have never heard of the reference mentioned in the review. on to a google search. a fun review christina

June 19, 2013 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Heidi said...

Yes, I was totally caught by the Rear Window connection as well, and from the sound of it I need to read this one this year! Especially from what you said about this being a MG mystery done well. I hate when things are obvious, and honestly, didn't enjoy that as a kid either. I'm so glad the kids are aware of what's in front of them, but still need the evidence as it goes. Sounds like a winner.

June 19, 2013 at 5:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had just did a WoW post for this book, and now I'm seeing reviews.. oh woe is me when will I be able to keep up! Great review :)

June 20, 2013 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Hitchcock film!

June 20, 2013 at 10:11 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yup, she really did an excellent job with that, I think. I was never going OMG IT'S SO OBVIOUS, like I was in the Jeanne DuPrau series.

June 20, 2013 at 10:24 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

There is no keeping up.

June 20, 2013 at 10:24 AM  
Blogger Kate Cruize said...

Thanks for the post. Your review is really helpful and would also recommend you to keep posting similar reviews on wigs. Would love to read more from you.

June 29, 2013 at 6:03 AM  

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