Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills by Carrie Cross
Genre: Young Adult, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (260 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe
Thirteen-year-old sleuth Skylar Robbins plans to become a private detective like her grandfather. Stuck at her bullying cousin Gwendolyn’s Malibu estate for the summer, Skylar brings her detective kit, portable spy tools, and her journal for taking notes in secret code. She had no idea how dangerous the next eight weeks would prove to be. On the first day of summer school an odd classmate named Kat passes a note in backward writing, introducing Skylar to the secret world of witchcraft. Practical Skylar didn’t believe in magic—until the spells they perform in an abandoned garden actually begin to work. Skylar finds herself accepting the increasingly risky challenges made by her new BF, and when Kat tells her that a mysterious group is doing wicked things up in Shadow Hills at night, she can’t help but investigate. Her classmates are nervous and rumors are flying. The teen sleuth uses the tools in her detective kit and faces her most embarrassing fear to find the truth. If Skylar survives the summer, her life will be changed forever.
There are some things that puzzle even the smartest detective. Will Skylar be able to figure out why her cousin is such a bully or what’s really happening late at night on Shadow Hill before the summer ends?
Skylar’s insatiable curiosity made me like her immediately. She’s an intelligent and resourceful girl who is clearly accustomed to thinking on her feet. What really endeared me to this character, though, were her faults. They’re things that a lot of us struggle with, and they show up so early on in her summer vacation that they feel like natural extensions of her personality. The fact that she’s willing to do this makes me think she’s a great role model. It takes a lot of courage to own up to this stuff, after all.
There were times when I questioned Skylar’s choice of friends. She’s a kind person, but she seems to be attracted to people who don’t necessarily share that character trait. It would have been helpful to know why she befriends people who have such a different outlook on life given that Skylar doesn’t seem to have a mean bone in her body. I’m hoping that this part of her life will be more fully explored in the sequel.
As a lifelong fan of codes, I was pleased to see so many different types of them represented in this story. There’s something fascinating about writing a message that most other people won’t be able to understand. At a few different points I actually paused and played around with the various codes that Skylar and her friends used to keep their communication with each other hidden. To me this is a sign of a great young adult mystery!
Figuring out the best age recommendation for this book was tricky. The plot is clearly intended for middle grade readers. Skylar seemed to written to appeal to an audience that is a few years younger than her. Chronologically she’s a teenager, but hasn’t yet developed an interest in the kind of stuff that typically appeal to adolescents.
Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills was a strong introduction to a fun, new series. I’m looking forward to catching up with Skylar on her next adventure, and I’d heartily recommend doing the same to anyone who is a fan of mysteries or young adult novels.