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Absolutely Truly: A Pumpkin Falls Mystery

Review

Absolutely Truly: A Pumpkin Falls Mystery

Heather Vogel Frederick's new youth novel ABSOLUTELY TRULY claims in its title that it is a "Pumpkin Falls Mystery." This will be very distracting to someone picking up this book and immediately writing it off as another ode to New England like CHARLOTTE'S WEBor a nostalgia-fueled coming-of-age story in a place few will ever know the safety or comfort of, like ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. In this particular case, I am referring to myself. I saw "Pumpkin Falls Mystery" and leapt at it. I don't regret doing this, as I went in looking for one thing and came out with something far better. I saw an opportunity to get a first look at a new children's mystery series and came out with a few tears and a love for an entire town.

ABSOLUTELY TRULY introduces us to Truly Lovejoy, a 6-foot tall 12-year-old, with a size 10-and-a-half shoe. Truly is the third of five children, making her the middle child. She’s a member of a military family that had to uproot after accepting the finality of settling down in Texas. Their (new) final move brings them to Pumpkin Falls, New Hampshire. Pumpkin Falls is Truly's father's hometown. Truly's father served as an army helicopter pilot up until a few months prior to the start of the story. The day that led to Truly's family’s move to Pumpkin Falls is referred to as "Black Monday." This was the day Truly's dad lost his arm and best friend in a helicopter crash. Truly and her family have a good deal to handle and a lot to introduce us to in the first 30 pages.

Truly, as we learn, isn't doing well in her math classes at her new school, and her social life wouldn't be doing any better if not for her new friends Lucas and Cha-Cha. Her father imposes an afternoon math tutoring session at the family bookstore, located on the main street of their quaint New Hampshire hamlet, until her grade is up to his standards. And when tutoring is finished, she helps her father and Aunt (also named Truly) keep the store. It is during her hours taking inventory with her Aunt True that Truly finds something completely captivating: a first edition of CHARLOTTE'S WEB with a 20-year-old letter inside. The message on the letter is cryptic, sending Truly and her friends on a wild scavenger hunt for more clues and the secret behind their messages.

I wish I could get into all of the meticulous details and discuss the strength of the ending, or the points of the book that made me tear up and put the book down to collect myself, but that would give away far too much

ABSOLUTELY TRULY was a joy to read, and I wish I could write about it way more than I think I am allotted. This book has a good bit of weight behind it. The mystery on the surface acts as a driving force for our heroine, but it also deceptively acts as a way for us to meet the town and learn its rich history. I could not say that this was done casually, and all that might imply, but I can't say it was obvious. It just happens. Amongst all of Truly's problems --- her father's post-war grief and loss, moving to a new town, missing her old town, meeting new people, trading Texas for New Hampshire --- we don’t get to clearly see anything in this new town completely, immediately. We are led slowly by the hand into the town, through Truly's acceptance and adjustment into her new life. As her hunt for clues leads her around town, we learn different things about Pumpkin Falls's past and meet members of its colorful population. Pretty soon, we are left with a loving and memorable community of characters.

The very depth of the relationships within the Lovejoy family aren’t clear until the very end, either. Truly's father and his own changes, from what we witness, makes learning to care for this family that much easier. Everyone is growing, everyone is changing --- and this includes the reader. 

The town is changing with the addition of the Lovejoys. The Lovejoys are learning to live in their new town. Truly's father is changing amidst his trauma and loss. Truly's mother and siblings are busy trying to cope with an emotionally distant husband and father. Truly's changes are that of a girl starting to enter womanhood amidst all of this. I wish I could get into all of the meticulous details and discuss the strength of the ending, or the points of the book that made me tear up and put the book down to collect myself, but that would give away far too much, including the last line of the book! I wish I could tell you all about the analogies and imagery surrounding birds, flight and how our childhood memories affect us as we grow into young adults. There was too much to discuss in this review, but anyone looking for a read worth their time and money should know that this is it.

ABSOLUTELY TRULY is definitely worth more than what it costs to buy, and is worth every second of reading for the experience. I am certainly looking forward to Heather Vogel Frederick's next romp through Pumpkin Falls. I will be sure to drop through, because I came for Truly and ended staying for her town.

Reviewed by Matthew Burbridge on November 5, 2014

Absolutely Truly: A Pumpkin Falls Mystery
by Heather Vogel Frederick

  • Publication Date: November 4, 2014
  • Genres: Mystery
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 1442429720
  • ISBN-13: 9781442429727