published February 2008 by Random House
323 pages, middle grade
I wondered if I should start a conversation. But what about? Small talk or big talk? I remembered what Mum had said when I started at secondary school last autumn. When you meet new people, Ted, keep the talk small. I'd asked her what this meant. Did it mean to use only words of one syllable? She'd laughed and said no, it meant sticking to everyday subjects. Like the weather? I'd asked. And she sighed and said, 'OK, Ted. Like the weather. Only not big weather. Small weather.' Which meant I could talk about anticyclones and minor depressions but not major storm systems or global warming. (p. 32)Ted, our 11 year-old narrator, knows that his mind works differently than most people's - although it's not explicitly stated, various clues tell readers that he has something like Asperger's syndrome - which makes him an asset to the current investigation of the disappearance of his cousin, Salim. Ted, Kat (his older sister), and Salim were in line to ride the London Eye when this mystery begins. Salim receives a free ticket from a stranger (warning signs should be flashing) to ride the Eye, so the group decides it would be fine for Salim to experience the ride by himself. Half an hour later, when Salim's carriage descends and its occupants exit, Salim is nowhere to be found. The adults go into panic mode, while Ted and Kat try to puzzle out the possibilities of Salim's disappearance on their own.
I wouldn't classify this as a mystery that mystery fans will love. Yes, mystery is in the title of the book, but this one's more about the characters and how they relate to each other. Which is why I enjoyed it. It's no surprise that I'm a fan of character-based books. Sure, I love a good plot and a fast-paced story, but those books rarely stick with me. This book is one I'll remember. I love the fact that Ted's syndrome was dealt with in such a natural way - the frustrations his family experienced with him at times weren't sugar-coated but the unique and best parts of his personality were also present and described in such a Ted way. That's why I chose the passage I did to open with because I can't really tell you why the writing appealed to me so - showing is better. Ted is fascinated by weather and aspires to be a meteorologist, which also serves as an outlet for him to make life connections. His personality is strong and consistent and definitely gives readers a peek into a mind that may be different from their own.
The universe and I were in sync today, as I finished this book on World Autism Day, though I didn't know it at the time. Thanks to The Brown Bookshelf for keeping me informed!
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