Absolutely Truly: A Pumpkin Falls Mystery
By Heather Vogel Frederick
Published 2014 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Truly Lovejoy's life is facing a major change. Her father, injured in Afghanistan, has decided to move the family halfway across the country to his hometown - Pumpkin Falls, New Hampshire. For Truly, who had finally felt like her life was settling down, this move couldn't be more frustrating. Add to that the worries about her father (who hasn't been the same since his injury), the possibility that they will lose the family business (the bookstore is struggling financially), and a mystery that cries out to be solved and Truly is in for some big changes.
I downloaded this e-galley because I thought it sounded cute - a small-town mystery, a family experiencing some crisis, and set in New England. I had never read a book by the author before but I've seen her stuff around and it all sounds pretty cute. I figured this was as good a time as any to check her out.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - I appreciate books with realistic and complicated family relationships. I think that may have been one of my favorite aspects of this novel - the Lovejoys are a large, loving, and complex family unit. Frederick does an excellent job depicting the family fallout of a parent injured in a combat situation - Truly's father is clearly not the same person he was before the explosion and the family is learning how to accommodate his changes. The love among the family members is abundant and apparent and heartwarming. Truly has a great relationship with both her parents as well as with her brothers and sisters. It's not always easy being a part of the Lovejoy clan but they always make it work.
Another thing I appreciated about this book was the setting. Being from New England myself (though not New Hampshire specifically), I thought Frederick did a great job evoking the small-town feel that permeates much of New England and makes it such a tourist destination. No, every town is not picturesque and idyllic, but a lot of them are. Frederick did a great job showcasing the charm of a small-town - the interesting characters you'll find (for better or worse since usually it's impossible to keep a secret in a small town), the unique history, and the beauty of nature that can frequently be found. Pumpkin Falls is not a real town, but it reminded me very much of many small towns I've visited throughout New England - and definitely made me homesick for the place I come from.
I thought the mystery was really well-done also. It was interesting, full of literary elements, and I definitely couldn't wait to see it solved. It's not a super-complicated mystery and an astute reader may be able to solve at least part of the mystery before the characters do. But I found it very charming (which I would say about the book as a whole as well) and I'm looking forward to what Frederick might do in the next installment (because, yes, this is first in a series).
One little thing to mention: the ARC I read seemed to have a slight factual error. I don't have it in front of me anymore, so I can't quote exactly, but it was in reference to time zones. My reading of it implied that the difference between Eastern and Central time zone was two hours, when in fact it is only one hour. I may have misread or it may have been corrected in the final version, but I thought I should mention it.
Overall, I found this a lovely read, perfect for winter and charming as all get out with realistic relationships and a fun mystery. Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.