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Turning into a nice series

I So Don't Do Spooky
I So Don't Do Spooky
By Barry Summie

Delacorte Press: 2009

Buy it now at Amazon.com


This review first appeared in Turbula in January 2010.

On release of 2008's "I So Don't Do Mysteries," it was clear that San Diego's Barrie Summy was aiming for a series with her charming protagonist Sherry Baldwin. Equal parts whodunit and ghost story, Summy's debut was a fun, breezy read for pre-teen and young teen girls – and the follow-up novel is every bit as good. Perhaps better.

The story line in "I So Don't Do Spooky" this time revolves around Sherry's stepmom, the principal at her junior high school and the apparent subject of a stalker. As in the first book, Sherry assists her late mom (now in ghost form, after she was killed on the job as a police officer) in solving the mystery.

Sherry is again joined by her best friend forever Junie, her cute cute cute boyfriend Josh and her kid brother, Sam. It's as charming a cast as any youth series possesses, and they exist in as timeless a place as the perpetually youthful worlds of Nancy Drew or the Archie comics.

Pre-teen and tweener girls will love Summy's explorations of important issues like makeup and kissing, and their parents will appreciate that Summy keeps everything safely rated PG.

As for the mystery – it gets a bit out-there at times, but Summy does a good job of keeping everything roughly believable and the conclusion ties up nicely.

Summy's writing is improving as the series progresses – the dialogue is more polished, the transitions smoother. Already far better written than most juvenile mysteries (Nancy Drew seems paint-by-numbers predictable by comparison), Summy's "I So Don't Do ..." series talks to the readers, not down to or at them.

With a new entry due in May, Summy seems to be onto something pretty good with this series.