Ray, Delia. Finding Fortune
November 10th 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Ren is struggling with the fact that her father is serving in Afghanistan after having moved out of the family home. Her mother seems to be dating a neighbor, Rick, but says they are just friends. Ren deals with her stress by biking over to the nearby town of Fortune, which is now inhabited by fewer than two dozen people. At one point, Fortune was a bustling place with several shell button factories, but after the river ran out of shells, business (as well as the community) dried up. When Ren gets angry at her mother, she runs away to the school there, which is being run as a boarding house by Hildy, the 1950 button queen. There is an odd group of characters living in the building, including Hugh and his mother, Mine, the mayor of the town, and a man building a labyrinth out of shells. Hildy is trying to organize her treasures into a button museum in the gymnasium. Ren's mother isn't happy when she retrieves her from the school, and enrolls her in a boring summer program. As a service project for this program, though, Ren volunteers to help with the button museum. Along with Hildy's grandson, Tucker, who is staying for the summer, Ren and Hugh try to find the treasure that Hildy's brother, Tom, left in the school before he went off to fight in Korea, never to return to Fortune. Can they find the treasure so that Hildy has the means to get the button museum open?
Strengths: This would have been a favorite of mine in middle school. Living in a school building? Awesome. Solving a mystery? Of course. The town of Fortune is very well portrayed, and the historical information put together by Ms. Ray based on several small towns makes this an interesting and very real story. Having visited Iowa this summer and seen several of these small towns, it all rings very true!
Weaknesses: I could have done without so many quirky characters and with more descriptions of the school and town, but that's just me.
What I really think: This will be a good book for readers of Beil's Red Blazer Girls and other quiet mysteries.