The Mystery of the Missing Everything
by Ben H. Winters
Recommended Ages: 12+
It's a troubling case, fraught with too many suspects and not enough clues, but Bethesda gets there on time. Besides whodunit, she also learns a few things about being a better friend and accepting that there are things you're not supposed to know. Meanwhile, other characters also shine – from the music teacher, Ms. Finkleman, who reaches out to a philanthropist to help the eighth grade pay for its class trip, to an up-and-coming leader named Chester Hu, who organizes a hilarious music video to raise funds online. The cast is also crowded with goofy characters, like Braxton Lashey, whose big talent is falling down; Custodian Steve, who believes the school is haunted by a vengeful spirit; Assistant Principal Jasper Ferrars, who jumps at every growl and snarl of the school's ridiculous principal. I know exactly which character I would have been if I had done eighth grade at Mary Todd Lincoln. There might be a character for just about everybody.
It's a sweet book full of characters who'll charm the sympathy right out of you. It's a funny book, too, with gags that are both outrageous and believably human. It also drops the names of bands and composers and titles of pieces of music that you may want to get to know on your own time. My research has, disappointingly, failed to uncover any proof that such a cartoon character as Wellington Wolf really exists – Bethesda's dad is a fan, and he makes it sound fun. I was almost sure there was a similar animated TV character in the 1970s, but maybe I'm thinking of Mumbly, the trenchcoat-wearing detective dog with the wheezy laugh.
This is a sequel to The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman. Ben H. Winters is also the author of the spoof novels Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Android Karenina, the Last Policeman trilogy, several other novels, collections of poems, and plays including Uncle Pirate. He is also a co-author of several books in the "Worst Case Scenario" series and the editor of a humor collection titled The Jewish Comedy Thesaurus.