Though Cold Hard Cash came out soon after this, for the longest time Wild Things remained the pinnacle book of the Sammy Keyes series for me. That’s because Wendelin van Draanen went on a several year hiatus after writing Cold Hard Cash…and unfortunately for Cold Hard Cash, this book is so much better.
Everyone’s gone for the summer, and Sammy remains in Santa Martina. So when an accidental run-in with Cassie “Kricket” Kuo leads to a camping invitation, Sammy is more or less along for the ride. She never imagined that the trip would lead to a missing condor case.
Here we are the closest ever to getting a very un-Sammy Keyes-ish book. Why? School’s out, Heather’s gone, and most of the book is spent running around with Cassie Kuo, a call-back character to book #4. We also get to see Sammy very out of her element. It turns out that despite her “toughness,” Sammy is actually terrible at camping. And that is a hilarious sight to behold!
Seeing Sammy in uncharted territory is a welcome change of pace. Having a new friend around is great too. Though Marissa, Holly and Dot are welcome additions to any books, it was nice seeing Sammy’s interactions with new people. Kricket and her brother, Gary, are a fun addition to the series. And it also made a lot of sense to bring someone new in for this mystery, instead of Sammy’s usual clan.
Casey and Billy are also around a lot in this book. For the first time, we really see Sammy truly grapple with the ramifications of telling people about her living situation. Instead of worrying about what would happen if people find out, Sammy wonders if should she be more open about it. Why should it be a huge secret from her friends? This thinking comes to fruition to when Lana Keyes & Warren Acosta drama lead to Casey asking a lot of questions. And so the circle of trust grows…
Even if you forget about the character interactions/development, this book still has a fabulous mystery. This one feels really Nancy Drew-ish. Sammy is all around California, sneaking around and “bending” laws, all in the name of saving condors. It truly is a noble cause.
My only regret is that van Draanen never explained the noodles story.