October Schwartz (yes, that’s her real name) is the new kid at Sticksville High School. She likes black eyeliner, hanging out in the cemetery behind her house and writing horror. She is the youngest person at Sticksville High on account of her skipping a year, and if that isn’t enough to make her a social pariah, her poor depressed dad is the school’s new biology/auto shop teacher.
A few weeks into the semester her favourite teacher is found crushed to death in the auto-shop. The police say it was an accident, but October doesn’t believe them. To find out the truth about her teacher’s demise, October enlists the help of some local kids. Oh yeah, the kids are dead. And so the Dead Kid Detective Agency is born.
I really like what The Dead Kid Detective Agency by Evan Munday (ECW Press) sets out to do, which is to teach young readers about Canadian history in an entertaining way. Each dead kid is from a different period of Canadian history and so the book provides facts about the Underground Railroad, American Loyalists, Scottish immigrants, etc. It also addresses the October Crisis and the FLQ. There are also several fun pop culture references scattered throughout (and don’t worry if you don’t know them all; there is a handy appendix in the back to fill you in).
It’s also a funny book. Very funny. The off-beat, tongue-in-cheek humour is what holds this book up. Usually I don’t enjoy when the narrator stops and talks to the reader, but in this book it works. One of my favourite moments of this is the following:
“[October] couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read Pet Sematary in an actual sematary… or cemetery. (For the same reason, I only read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe while locked in a dresser. True story.)”
Oh please tell me that is true to you, Evan!
October is also a great character. She’s chubby, self-conscious, socially awkward, spunky, funny, smart and all-around lovable. And I just want to hug her dad. And her moustache-challenged friend Stacey—he would get a hug from me, too.
I liked that The Dead Kid Detective Agency kept me guessing. I didn’t know who the murderer was until October did, which is what I want out of a mystery.
Taking all that into consideration, I really wanted to love this book. I did like it, but unfortunately it wasn’t true love. I found it rambly in places and a bit pedantic. Frankly, it took me quite a bit longer to get through then I expected.
I give The Dead Kid Detective Agency an ‘A’ for effort and originality. But it’s more like a B-movie… er book. A good B-book.
[Side Note: I have met and/or worked with three people that are mentioned in the acknowledgments! This is a first for me and warrants a significant WHOOP of excitement!]
Check out my interview with Evan Munday here.