Our new feature series (Kick-butt Kidlit Spotlight On:) is kicking off this month with a focus on MYSTERY NOVELS! Specifically middle grade mystery because MG is our jam!
Let’s give a big Kick-butt welcome to our first guest, Lauren Magaziner!
Your Move, Detective
Be aware! There are some suspicious characters lurking around Guinevere LeCavalier. There’s:
—Smythe, the butler, who seems cranky with his employer for no reason at all
—Patty, the nosy neighbor, who is holding a longtime grudge
—Ivy, the absent daughter, who has just come home after five years and seems to be exceptionally nervous
In a mystery novel, you’d be along for the ride, as the detective tries to solve the case. But what if YOU got to be that detective? You could pick which suspect to interview, what questions to ask, and what clues to follow. All the detective work would be yours to do, and any puzzle would be yours to solve. Back off, Sherlock Holmes—this case is MINE.
That’s what I set out to do in my newest novel, Mystery in the Mansion, the first book in the CASE CLOSED series, a “pick your path” mystery. Giving kid readers authority over the mystery helps them develop logic and critical reasoning skills. But mostly it’s just plain fun. Thanks to video games, I knew all about how fun it could be to interact with a story. When you’re making the choices, the story isn’t just a part of you; you are a part of it!
As the author trying to put kids in the driver’s seat, there was a lot I had to consider. My biggest question: How much should your choices matter? What sorts of consequences could there be if you pushed a suspect too hard—would the suspect get defensive and close up like a clam? Or could you actually get kicked off the case?
Ok, ok, so my agent is totally going to laugh, reading that last paragraph. Because in the first draft of Mystery in the Mansion, I wrote the whole story without a single dead end. There were a bunch of choices that led to more choices, and it always led to solving the mystery but in different ways.
My agent wasn’t having it. When she read it, she called me immediately. “If every choice you make leads to you solving the case, then what does it matter? The point of having choices is that your decisions have consequences, isn’t it?”
“I don’t want kids to feel like they failed,” I said.
“Kids are resilient. They can try again.”
Turns out, I was resilient too, so I tried again with a new draft. Reader, my agent was right. The interactivity of the book elevated to a whole new level when there were dead ends and chances to fail. Knowing that your choices really matter—and that you’re only one page flip away from making a career-ending (or deadly) mistake—increased the tension and elevated the stakes.
Because the thing is: no detective is immune to potentially devastating consequences. Not even kid detectives. So if you dare, come test your own detective skills in this challenging, interactive, puzzle-filled book…
And when you get booted off the case for the first time—or die in an alligator pit—or accidentally give your employer a fatal heart attack—or get locked in an underground cave…
Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 🙂
Lauren is the author of many delightful middle grade titles such as THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES, PILFER ACADEMY, WIZARDMATCH, and the upcoming MYSTERY IN THE MANSION.
MYSTERY IN THE MANSION is the first book in the Case Closed series.
It hits shelves on August 14th! Add MYSTERY IN THE MANSION on Goodreads!
Click here to enter to win a copy of MYSTERY IN THE MANSION!
The final giveaway will be for EVERY SINGLE book featured in the Kick-butt Kidlit Spotlight On: MYSTERY blog series so make sure you check it out on every post! (New options to enter will be added with each post.) Draw closes on Friday, October 5th at the end of our series.
Tune in on Friday for a guest post from Wendy McLeod MacKnight!