When I finish reviewing the series, I’ll have to give you my official ranking of each book. In the meantime, however, it’s easy to say this one’s my favorite. No Sammy Keyes book was read more repeatedly and fervently during my tween years. Probably half the library’s checkouts for this book belong to me. I love this one to pieces.
It may be Sammy’s birthday, but it wouldn’t be a Sammy book without a disaster along the way. Lana comes to town to drop a few bombshells, Sammy discovers the evil Heather shares her birthday, and to top it all off, there’s a conspiracy in Santa Martina dealing with several dead cats and the new wrestling shop next to the Pup Parlor.
Similar to Curse of Moustache Mary, this one’s a game-changer. Lana tells Sammy she lied about her age to get her into kindergarten early, meaning Sammy begins a year as a thirteen year old all over again. Heather and Sammy discover they have the same birthday. Lana Keyes and Warren Acosta meet and hit it off, leading to trouble later in the series. We have one of the coolest and most creative mysteries of the series. And, of course, Casey and Sammy have some of their greatest moments yet.
Many Sammy Keyes book have one relationship at the heart of it. For Sisters of Mercy, it’s Sammy and Holly. For Runaway Elf, it’s Sammy and Mrs. Graybill. For Hollywood Mummy, it’s Sammy and her mother. For Search for Snake Eyes, it’s Sammy and Marissa. You’ll see in future reviews that Wedding Crasher is about Sammy and Casey, and Killer Cruise is about Sammy and her mystery father. For this one, it’s Sammy and Officer Borsch.
And that’s despite the fact that Borsch is [SPOILER ALERT] in disguise as El Gato most of the story. At the end of the book we have one of the most satisfying scenes of the entire series, where Borsch confesses he thinks of Sammy like a daughter. It’s sweet and incredibly touching to see this dynamic emerge. It’s emotional for both Sammy and the reader to hear Borsch say those words after the build-up of the previous eight books.
That one moment aside, there is plenty more to love about this book. We see peak Sammy-Heather conflict when Heather and her clan attempt to take down Sammy…and get their asses handed to them instead. Sammy is all kinds of badass in this book, which is necessary considering all the dangerous stuff she ends up dealing with. As much as I love the hardcore, dangerous mysteries, it’s good that they get a little lighter after this book (with the exception of the condor fiasco in Wild Things).
We also see the seeds begin for the mystery behind Sammy’s dad. He’s always been an unknown figure for the series, but it becomes important in this one.
It’s interesting timing, considering that this is also the book [SPOILER ALERT] where we first hear Sammy’s father’s name. (Even though we didn’t know it was his name at the time.)
Another great thing about this book is the Sammy and Casey dynamic. It was always impossible for me not to love a Casey book, and this one has especially good Casey scenes. Even Holly gets in on shipping the couple!
If you’ve been reading my reviews, and like reading books for tweens, and haven’t yet picked up a Sammy Keyes book…this may be a good one to start. I hope you love it as much as I do.