Posted in Book Reviews

A Ranking of Sammy Keyes

In the beginning days of this blog, I reviewed the Sammy Keyes series alongside my regular YA reviews. Though my series readalong has ended, I thought I would provide a recap post for those interested in my overall opinions of the series. A new year brings a new blogging pattern, and next year there won’t be any nostalgia-filled blog series. Expect two YA reviews from me a week (except on weeks where I get behind). But for those who enjoyed the Sammy Keyes blog series, here is one last post. I count down the series from least favorite to favorite, though truthfully, I love most books in this series. (And always will.)

18. Hollywood Mummy

This one is weird and out of place for the series. It is one of the few that introduces characters we never see again, and seems to resolve Sammy’s conflict with her mother (only for that conflict to return in later books). But mostly I don’t like this one for all the reincarnation stuff. It doesn’t creep me out now, but it did as a kid, and so that feeling of dislike remains.

17. Runaway Elf

The Heather conflict is so cheesy, and the mystery plot line is one of the few that never gets mentioned in later books, despite it being one that easily could. Once a blackmailer, always a blackmailer. Yet we never see the blackmailer again…

I like the Cassie Kuo bit, however, and enjoy that Sammy is the kind of gal who appreciates hand-made Christmas ornaments as a Secret Santa gift.

16. Sisters of Mercy

On one hand, this book introduces Holly. It also shows the first break in the Borsch and Sammy rivalry. For some reason, however, I don’t enjoy this one as much as the others in the series. I wish I could say it was the softball focus, but I liked other softball books a lot more.

15. Hotel Thief

Though the series changes through the two decades van Draanen published it, Sammy’s essence never does. That’s not to say she doesn’t grow up and develop–because she does–but still… This book is classic Sammy behavior through and through. I can’t imagine reading this book and not wanting to learn more about Sammy.

14. Art of Deception

It’s a true testimate to the strength of this series that the first Sammy Keyes book I ever read–that one that made me obsessed with the series–is near the bottom of my ranking. I love the art stuff, and the Faire stuff, but this book doesn’t have quite the same spark the other books do.

13. Cold Hard Cash

Despite having some of the most iconic series moments, I find this one very cringeworthy. I also hate the Lana and Warren plot line, and think the series would have been better off without it. To the books credit, however, as I reread the book I found myself really enjoying the mystery story line. It’s surprisingly intense!

12. Night of Skulls

This one ends up solidly in the middle of the pack for remaining unmemorable. I had to reread my blog post to remember what I thought about it, and in my blog post I mentioned not remembering anything from my first read-through after its publication. What I said in that post truly hits the point of the book: inevitables. Night of Skulls may not be memorable, but it’s a book the series needed.

11. Wedding Crasher

It is jarring just how school-related this one is. We’ve had school-centric Sammy books before, but this one takes the cake. And, truthfully, it’s a fun ride! I enjoyed the change of pace.

10. Kiss Goodbye

The most satisfying conclusion of all time, yet it only takes the 10th spot on my list. It’s a bit sappy, and though I love seeing how much Sammy impacted the little town of Santa Martina–the ending brings joyful tears to my eyes–there isn’t enough Sammy to make it feel like an official book. This is the classic TV sitcom montage finale, and though it pulls emotional punches, and solves all remaining plot lines, I would have preferred a lot less reminiscing.

9. Skeleton Man

My favorite of the early books. Fewer moments in the series are more memorable than the revenge Sammy brings upon Heather in this one. And the mystery involves antique books! It’s the perfect hook for those still wavering on reading the rest of the series after reading Hotel Thief.

8. Dead Giveaway

I always loved (and fondly remembered) this one for the Sammy and Casey plot development. What I discovered, however, upon rereading is that the mystery is one of the most interesting in the whole series. Who knew eminent domain could be such a thrilling topic?

7. Killer Cruise

I never expected to meet Sammy’s father in the series. I didn’t even spend time hoping for it. Despite that, I feel nothing but joy for getting that introduction. Seeing Sammy connect with her father is the most rewarding moment(s) of the series. It’s complete perfection.

6. Wild Things

Unlike Hollywood Mummy, getting out of Santa Martina was a good thing for this book. The change of pace and the focus on such an unexpected topic (condors) was a welcome change of pace. It also helps that this one has some of my favorite Sammy & Casey moments of the series. I discovered the series shortly after the publication of this books, so for a long, long while, Wild Things was the best book I would get as far as Sammy & Casey development goes.

5. Search for Snake Eyes

For a long time this one was my favorite. It’s exciting, tense, and makes softball interesting! It’s also the first suggestion that Casey might be in it for the long run with Sammy, even if she isn’t interested by him yet. The gangster showdown is also pretty cool, though unprecedently dark in tone for an overall “light” series.

4. Showdown in Sin City

When I picked this one up at the library, I didn’t realize what a thrill ride this book would bring me. That incredible father-reveal was enough of a shock, but even more shocking about this book is the stuff with the Acostas. In order for the series to end on a high note, it felt like the Acostas would have to eventually accept Sammy and Casey as a couple. I didn’t anticipate that development to be so emotional, but I am glad it turned out that way. This book has the resolutions every hardcore Sammy Keyes fan ever hoped for.

3. Power of Justice Jack

During my read through of the series, my love for this one was truly unexpected. It’s a fun ride for the series, with that masked hero and all, but also has some good emotional weight. I love the resolution of the Wedgewood plot. More spectacular, however, is how that books helps Sammy. We all know how amazing and special Sammy is, but does she know it? In this book I think she finally realizes her true potential, and that’s rewarding for any longtime reader.

2. Curse of Moustache Mary

I love few mysteries more than those with historical elements. For that reason, Moustache Mary takes the award for having the best mystery plot of the series. I also love how it parallels so much of Sammy’s personal life in this book. It’s also the first of three series game-changers (the others being Showdown in Sin City and Psycho Kitty Queen) and wonderfully launches the Sammy story in new directions.

1. Psycho Kitty Queen

Here we have the first truly “romantic” Sammy Keyes book. But even if the Casey scenes are fabulous, this book is incredible for what it does with Borsch. It has some of those highly rewarding characters scenes, one of the earliest in the series, by giving us that book closer with Sammy and Borsch. This one also introduces so many of the future series plot conflicts. Remove this book from the series, and the rest would be very, very different. It’s hard to place exactly why I love this one so much, but I do. And I always will.


And with that, I end my time rereading the amazing Sammy Keyes series. Few books stay in my heart for years to come, and this series manages to do that with all its books. It’s not perfect by any means, but it was the right read for me. Reading the series again reminded of my strong love for it…and that no matter how old I get, I’ll be sure to continue rereading, and recommending, this book.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s