Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Sixteen individuals who are mysteriously chosen to live in the Sunset Towers apartment building on the shore of Lake Michigan come together to hear the will of the self-made millionaire, Samuel W. Westing. The will takes the form of a puzzle, dividing the sixteen heirs into eight pairs, giving each pair a different set of clues, and challenging them to solve the mystery of who killed Sam Westing. As an incentive, each heir is given $10,000 to play the game. Whoever solves the mystery will inherit Sam Westing's 200 million dollar fortune.

This book won the Newbery Medal in 1979 (the Honor book being The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson), which is awarded for American literature for Children. I am constantly surprised by award winners, in that they are not books that I would have thought to be above-and-beyond. Maybe that's why I am not a judge...

This was an enjoyable book, obviously written for a younger audience. I found it to be a little cumbersome at the end, trying to tie up loose ends. I had to read a few parts several times to let them sink in, as so much was happening and being solved at once. The five-year-update of characters at the end was a nice thought and very touching, making the book worth the read until the very last paragraph.

While it is written on a very easy-to-read level (Accelerated Reader puts the reading level at 5th grade, three months), the plot intricacies demand a more seasoned young adult reader. This is the way young adult books were written before it was fashionable to include expletives to make them seem edgier and more grown-up. This is a young adult book worth reading and (thankfully) stands the test of time.

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