Sammy Keyes and The Kiss Goodbye, by Wendelin Van Draanen

After eighteen installments, Wendelin Van Draanen is ending her award-winning Sammy Keyes series. The final book, Sammy Keyes and The Kiss Goodbye, was released this week, and it's a creative and genuinely sweet send-off.

Unlike the rest of the series, Sammy Keyes and The Kiss Goodbye isn't told from Sammy's perspective, because she spends most of the story unconscious. The novel opens just after Sammy's friend Holly witnesses a shadowy figure pushing Sammy off the fire escape of the Senior Highrise. Sammy is left in a coma, and her attacker doesn't seem to have left behind a single clue. Sammy's long-suffering police buddy Officer Borsch is determined to find out what happened—and pretty much all of Sammy's friends, old and new, are determined to help him.

After years of complaining about the incongruity between Van Draanen's PBS-friendly dialogue and HBO-worthy plots, I viewed her one-time use of “kickass” in this story as a personal victory. (Everything else was totally G-rated, but I'll take what I can get.) Unfortunately, Sammy Keyes and The Kiss Goodbye strains credulity in a different way: readers have to swallow the idea that the police wouldn't automatically put a 24-hour guard on an underage attempted murder victim—who happens to be the daughter of two celebrities—despite her attacker remaining at large. Which... yeah, not buying it.

But while aspects of the mystery are weak, it doesn't really matter—crime-solving isn't the point of this novel. This is a story that offers longtime fans another glimpse of fun characters from earlier in the series, and gives pretty much the entire cast an opportunity to acknowledge Sammy's influence on their lives. Like all of Ms. Van Draanen's writing, it's absolutely straightforward and sincere (but not cloying), which makes it a lovely way to bid farewell to such a beloved heroine.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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