A while back, I reviewed the Samantha Sanderson books (Book one and book two) by Robin Caroll. I liked the premise, but I objected to the potential lessons from the book. Cheat, spy, eavesdrop, and steal information without impunity. Print inaccurate libel of a grown man’s business and be cheered as the hero of the story! I was dismayed but still pointed out the positive aspects of a much-needed niche of Christian children’s literature.
Happily, I’ve found a wonderful alternative. Children acting in child-appropriate ways, making child-appropriate mistakes, and a great setting of a young girl sleuthing at a science and technology camp. Amanda Flowers’ book, Andi Under Pressure, has its fair share of flaws but is a lovely story that should interest readers of all ages.
First, let me praise Flowers for writing a capable second installment that stands on its own. While I am sure that reading book one, Andi Unexpected, would add to the enjoyment, a reader can dive in with Andi Under Pressure and enjoy it. After the death of her parents, Andi has moved to her aunt’s house with her older sister Bethany. She’s made friends with the boy next door, and both of them attend a summer science camp at the local university where her aunt teaches English. Presumably, this action takes place in book one.
When unexplained mishaps occur in the chemistry lab at science camp, leading to the injury of the chemistry instructor, Andi and her friend start sleuthing. They learn more about the town history, a mysterious janitor on campus, and the backgrounds of their fellow campers and camp counselors. In the process, Andi comes to a better understanding of her older sister’s homesickness, her aunt’s efforts at childrearing, and the paths people take after serious life losses.
The best part about this book: I like Andi. She’s a girl I’d like to have as a friend, daughter, or student. She makes mistakes, but she means well and has a sound moral center. This carries far more weight than preaching or descriptions of Sunday School classes. (In fact, the overt Christian content of this book is kept to a minimum, which allows its message to come across clearly.) Unlike Samantha of the Samantha Sanderson books, who made me uncomfortable with her arrogance and disregard for adults and ethics, Andi acts appropriately for her age and learns from others. She has to re-examine her dislike of a fellow camper, and she learns more about life in general. All of the supporting characters are written nicely. None of the characterizations are deep, but each character’s appearance adds to the story. The science setting is unique for the targeted age range (10-14), and it shows girls doing well in a traditionally male-dominated field.
The main problem with the book: It ends too abruptly. Yes, it does resolve the main plot points, but it’s told as a quick wrap-up rather than allowing the readers to process what happens. The brief nods at diversity are not egregious, but they’re still superficial.
Still, Andi Under Pressure is a fine book and one I recommend highly.
Review copy provided by BookLook, a subsidiary of HarperCollins Publishing.