Paris Pan takes the Dare by Cynthea Liu 2009
IQ "I contemplated whapping Tom's broken arm with my crutch. But I held back. I was above PDA." Paris pg. 240
Paris Pan is twelve years old and her life is a mess. Her family constantly moves around so that her father can renovate the house they live in and then they move again so he can renovate a new house. This time they have moved to a tiny town in Oklahoma where her friends don't really act like friends, her older sister is super popular, she rarely sees or talks to her brother and the guy she has a crush on is a dork. Even worse, Paris learns that the house she lives in is the former home of a girl her own age who died years ago taking part in the Dare. The Dare is a rite of passage for every seventh grade girl, you spend the night in the woods near Paris' house. Soon Paris is hearing creepy noises, finding dolls and she might possibly be able to communicate with the dead. Needless to say Paris is not thrilled with her situation, especially because her two new "friends" are ready to do the Dare and if Paris doesn't participate, she will officially be branded a loser. But will she come back alive?
This is a really cute and funny read, but I was not expecting to find the mystery so creepy. Honestly, I thought 'oh it's for younger readers, the mystery is probably a cute harmless thing', but it wasn't. If I was in Paris' situation I would have been freaking out too, regardless of age. Would you want to live near a place where a girl mysteriously died? Um no! Seriously, a dead girl, dolls popping up in the backyard, strange sounds, it all made for a surprisingly chilling read. The writing was well-done and suspenseful, in fact, the ending is happy but still leaves things a bit unclear (it's a mystery after all!). The ending was a surprise because I expected it to be wrapped up neatly, although some parts are obvious (like the mystery of whose writing Paris anonymous notes). I liked how Paris didn't want to solve the mystery, she wanted to pack up and move which I thought was very realistic.
Paris is a really funny character. Her voice reminds me so much of what I thought about in seventh grade, it took me back :) Just like her, I would hate to leave in such a small town (her seventh grade has 9 kids, 9!), I felt so bad for her and I completely understood her frustrations. Her older sister (in 8th grade), Verona's antics kept me laughing. In the small town in OK, all the girls at Paris and Verona's school play basketball, it's a big deal, but they stink. Neither Paris nor Verona likes basketball and while Paris can't get out of it, the way Verona wiggles her way out of playing is really funny, although you have to suspend your disbelief and just go with it. This is also the time when Paris is really discovering guys and developing crushes, her attitude towards her crush is quite funny and one that every middle school student can relate to, girl or boy. She's "in like" and quite confused by this, but at the same time she likes it. The relationships Paris has with her parents is well done, they are a presence in the book, but not in her life because they work so hard. Paris is really frustrated by this, since usually the baby of the family gets paid the most attention (in my experience anyway, it's the oldest or the youngest), but Paris is ignored. I wished that there was more focus on Athens (Paris' brother, her father named them all after cities because he wanted them to want to travel) but he's a senior in high school and he doesn't spend much time with Paris so it fits that they don't talk much. He was a sweet older brother, but he could be really dense when it came to Paris and her fear of their new home. I was so frustrated that no one in Paris' family understood or listened to her fear, they could have at least made her feel better by listening to her! Paris isn't used to having friends since they always move around so she puts up with the way her "friends" act; making fun of other people and just going along with the (small) crowd. Mayo was crazy, but I understood why no one wanted to cross her, she was charismatic, stubborn and mean. I wanted Dana to grow a backbone and not leave Paris to do all the hard work of trying to stand up to Mayo (which usually failed since there were only three girls to hang out with). The one other person Paris could hang out with was Robin and Robin's a "freak" whose family owns a candy shop (that everyone visits but they completely ignore Robin).
Paris Pan Takes the Dare was a cute read that I would highly recommend. Paris is a great narrator, she has a funny and honest voice and the other characters have distinctive personalities. It's an amusing read with an unexpected mystery thriller aspect to it (it's not that scary, totally appropriate for its targeted readers, I was just taken by surprise by how much I enjoyed the mystery part of it).
Disclosure: Received from the author to give away. Thanks so much Cynthea!
Want to win this book? Enter here for your chance!