Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Super Max and the Mystery of Thornwood's Revenge

Super Max and the Mystery of Thornwood's Revenge

Fall 2017 Fiction
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Susan Vaught
ISBN: 9781481486835
Hardcover Price: $16.99

Many decades ago, Blue Creek's resident tycoon lost his money, went crazy, and cursed the town. Nobody in town believes fully in Thornwood's Revenge anymore, but Hargrove Thornwood's mansion stayed crumbling on the hill as a small reminder. Now, though, Thornwood's Revenge seems to be resurgent. A string of hacking attacks is unsettling Blue Creek. It starts with nasty, poisonous fake Facebook and Twitter posts, and begins to escalate into real fires and attacks on townspeople's accounts. Max, the granddaughter of the town's police chief, sets out to catch the hacker, no matter what her grandfather Toppy says about not getting involved in police business. For her, it's personal. The hacker seems especially determined to destroy her grandfather's career. Even worse, the hacker is raising questions about Toppy's ability and willingness to care for Max, whose mother left her with Toppy after a car accident left her with lasting injuries. Max really doesn't want to be forced to live with her mom, whose apartment is not exactly wheelchair accessible. Together with her best friend Lavender, she is determined to solve the mystery and protect her life with Toppy.

Good mysteries are always about more than solving the puzzle. Ideally, they also ask readers to think about the social fissures that lead to crime (or to false accusations), and it's always a plus when the mystery is really about the smart, appealing, highly flawed, and preferably crotchety detective. This mystery does not disappoint. Max likes to decorate her wheelchair with paintings of dragons eating unicorns and farting rainbows, and she also has a tendency to fry circuit boards and start small fires while trying to rig her chair to go at turbo speed. She has some issues with anger and impulsivity, especially where her mom is concerned. She also has a good head for thinking about criminal motive, especially the slow rage that comes with invisibility. In other words, she's a terrific narrator for a mystery novel. Vaught's novel is well plotted as a mystery, and also offers a rare example of a richly developed disabled protagonist who neither 'overcomes' her disability nor is solely defined by it. Max navigates the reality of a wheelchair on a daily basis (including listening to her grandfather argue with insurance companies about the cost of batteries), and she also knows how to do things like solve mysteries and pirate electricity.

Naomi Lesley   ©2017 Parents' Choice
Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.

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