This middle school novel’s theme is secrets. Just like in real life, everyone in this book has them. Kathy Harmon, the new kid in town because she just moved to Warner, North Carolina, an island town on the outer banks, has them. One of her secrets is what happened to her left hand that causes her to hide it in her left pants pocket as much as possible.

Her new friend, Martha Cunningham, has a secret as well. While she is willing to go everywhere with Kathy, she won’t let Kathy come over to Martha’s home. Martha always has an excuse and Kathy is ready to investigate that mystery.

That is when she isn’t poking around in what happened to her friend Janine McCallum. Janine ran a restaurant and taught a class for kids known as “Kooking with Kids.” Janine also had an injured hand and despite that obstacle was able to do anything she wanted. She was leading by example in overcoming her handicap and her fear of it and she and Kathy had bonded. Now, she is dead and Kathy, who witnessed a violent altercation between Janine and one of many suspects, wants answers.

Billed like many books featuring young girls poking around in cases as “The New Nancy Drew” this novel tells an interesting tale written in an adult voice. As such it does not read as a middle school or young adult novel. It also features the occasional missing comma in dialogue and a rather abrupt ending.

Despite those issues, taken as a whole, this is an enjoyable novel that tells a good tale while not talking down to its intended audience. As the pages pass, the novel works back and forth through time with well done flashbacks to fill in character development and back story. For those readers that prefer a linear story this could be an issue but the way the story is told works well.

While back story on various issues is developed along with the characters, the central question of who killed Janine McCallum and why is never far from the mind of readers. The result is a good novel that offers a strong start to a possible series. Time and a number of novels within the series will settle the question of whether this author or one of many others will actually be able to lay claim to the title of “The New Nancy Drew.”

Bitter Tastes

V. B. Rosendahl

Stargazer Press


ISBN #0-9734940-9-3


108 Pages

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

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