Crystal has lost her father in a car accident that has left her paralyzed and wheelchair bound. Her grandmother has recently passed away, and Crystal and her mother go to the grandmother's retirement community home to clean out her house. When the mother is called away, she enlists a neighbor to help Crystal-- but the neighbor, who may struggle with some dementia, never shows up. Crystal and her cousin see other suspicious activity in the neighborhood and set out to find Zola. Crystal's difficulties are clearly shown, but her independence and spirit are evident. She works through her grief in positive ways.
The only slightly discordant note is some supernatural activity-- there is a chill blue light in her room and she feels her father is speaking to her-- but this is not taken too seriously and is not overdone. A great addition for middle school mystery fans. To find out more about this author:
Gary Paulsen's Lawn Boy was not bad, which was a relief after plowing through The Island, The Cookcamp, and other titles last year. Instead of the usual ruminating, Paulsen delivers a funny, almost silly book about a boy who inherits a lawn mower, starts a small business, and ends up, through a series of mishaps, getting a lot of money for his work. It was a quick read, and almost a fantasy for 12-year-old boys who are forced to mow lawns. Much better than the other lawn mowing book I can think of-- One Fat Summer.