July 29, 2013

YA Book Club: The Westing Game



It feels like ages since I last participated in Tracey Neithercott's YA Book Club, but it's great to be back on board now. July's pick was a little different than in past months. This time Tracey asked us to cast our votes on traditional summer reading list books, and The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin came out the winner. Now I should probably mention that never in all my years of schooling have I ever had a summer reading list, nor have I ever encountered this particular book. So this was a first read-through for me, and I have to say it was...different. And I can't decide if it's good different or not-sure-what-I-think different. Mostly I found it kind of odd.



The cast of characters was on the quirky side, and at first it was a bit difficult to keep everyone straight. My favourite character had to be Turtle, which will probably come as no surprise to anyone who has read this book. I got a "kick" out of the way she felt the need to boot anyone and everyone in the shins. And then there's the fact that the kid was a whiz with the stock market at thirteen years of age. The way she takes over the trial-like proceedings toward the end was pretty impressive. In many ways, it felt like the story evolved into Turtle Wexler's story.

While this book felt disjointed and confusing at times, I did enjoy reading all of the ways the characters tried to solve the clues they were given. The solution to the mystery was pretty clever and I couldn't help but be impressed at the fact that all of the clues were there the whole time for the heirs as well as the reader to figure out if they were so inclined. (Honestly, I didn't have enough brain capacity to try and crack the code, but it was kind of cool.) Without creeping into spoiler territory, I especially liked how Turtle figured out the situation with Samuel W. Westing et all at the story's conclusion. The last handful of chapters were by far my favourites.

All in all, it was a quick and easy read, which is probably why it's assigned to the younger set. As this was my first encounter with The Westing Game, I had no fond childhood memories attached to it, which is probably why I'm not head over heels in love with it. That said, my favourite part of this reading experience had to be the smell of old library book that kept wafting off the pages. Without a word of a lie, I kept wedging my nose in the middle of the book just to inhale the scent of it. (And I had the audacity to call this book odd. Now who's the weirdo?) That 1978 vintage is pretty much perfect. (It's just an awesome year all around.**)

So, have you read this book in recent years or even as a kid? If so, what did you think of it? For links to other YA Book Club participants' reviews of Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game, visit Tracey Neithercott's blog.



** I was born in August 1978.

16 comments:

  1. Don't feel bad, I've read it before and couldn't solve the mystery then or now :) You're right about how the story seems to really evolve into Turtle's, especially with the details of the last chapters.

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    1. The mystery itself was the most fun part of the book. The characters were weird and kind of fun, but mostly they were just tricky to keep straight. I'm not sure that I would have liked this book as a kid. Probably not. As an adult, it was worth the read even if I wasn't totally in love with it. :-)

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  2. I've never read this book, but now I'm intrigued to pick it up now. Great post. And yes, old library smell is perfectly acceptable to swoon over. I wish it came in a spray to treat all the new books. Better, yet e-book's should come with a cartridge like those Glade plug-ins. Somebody should get on that.

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    1. It was definitely quirky and different. I did enjoy the mystery aspect of it. And I think your e-book plug-in book scent idea is FANTASTIC! Someone should definitely get on that. ;-)

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  3. You know that I loved THE WESTING GAME when I was a kid, and I think that mostly had to do with the twist at the end. I also enjoyed trying to piece the clues together. I have to admit my feelings on it aren't quite the same now. Liam & I are only halfway through it, and for numerous reasons I'm finding it difficult to read out loud. I have to say I suspect this book may have inspired the 39 CLUES series. The premise of a mysterious game surrounding a will/inheritance and the style of the quirky characters is very similar. Wish we could have finished it before today, but oh well.

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    1. I honestly can't imagine this book holding my attention when I was younger, and it's not as though I was stunned or anything. It just felt kind of all over the place and confusing at times. I can definitely see how it would be tough to read aloud to Liam. You are so right about the 39 CLUES series being very similar. I was thinking the same thing when I was reading it. You just have to know the author was inspired by THE WESTING GAME. :-)

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  4. I think the reading list thing must be an American thing, because I've never had one either (but I wish we had if this is what kids get to read!) I think you're right, it is an odd little book, and I think the last chapters were my favourite, too--probably because Turtle was such a good character :) I can see how it wouldn't completely win you over, though. It did have quite an unusual (odd!) storytelling style, so it's probably not for everyone. Definitely a fun read, though!

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    1. Yeah, I'm not sure if other Canadian schools had summer reading lists, but none of the ones I attended had them. (Thank goodness, because most of our required reading was DREADFUL. I was much better at picking good reads on my own.) This one is definitely an odd little book, but the mystery was certainly enjoyable. The author played fair and it wasn't so easy that I was able to figure out. Talk about a satisfying resolution. I'm glad I read it in the end. :-)

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  5. I loved that Turtle was playing the stock market—hilarious. It's funny that the last few chapters were your favorites. I felt like the "five years later" stuff could all be cut. I wanted it to end when the mystery was solved, with this big aha!

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    1. That was totally off the wall having a thirteen-year-old into stocks. Too fun! I didn't so much love the five years later stuff as I loved the solving of the puzzle. I liked that Raskin played fair with the clues while crafting a mystery that was not at all easy to figure out. :-)

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  6. I agree with you on the last few chapters. They were definitely my favorite. The whole Turtle kicking everyone actually kind of got on my nerves, but I did like her on the whole. Good review :)

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    1. For the longest time I couldn't figure out why Turtle was kicking everyone, but then I finally clued in. Mostly I just liked how spunky she was. The best part of the story had to be the mystery, though--not too easy and the author played fair. :-)

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  7. I didn't read this as a kid-- it was new to me. I loved Turtle and thought she was a lot of fun. Kooky but awesome. I ordered an old version and I also loved the vintage experience. My cover was definitely very 70s/80s and had been around the block. Overall, I loved the mystery-puzzle.

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    1. New to me too! And it's probably better that I didn't read it as a kid (or have it read to me) because I don't think it would have held my attention. I did appreciate its quirkiness and I really enjoyed the mystery itself even if I wasn't totally in love with the story. The author played fair with the clues but didn't make it so easy that reading it felt pointless. Not one of my favourite reads, but I still enjoyed it. :-)

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  8. I liked the last chapters because we got a bit of romance -- it totally made me smile to find out which characters ended up married to one another. :-) My favorite aspects of THE WESTING GAME were definitely the well-plotted mystery and zany characters. They're what kept me reading!

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    1. Me too, Katy! (About the romance. I'm such a romance junkie. :P) I liked the mystery the best, I have to say. :)

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