Quick read for young adults satisfies
It's a good idea. With the attention span of readers shrinking and with short fiction filling ebook downloading sites, it makes sense for print publishers to counter with their own versions of the abbreviated literary form. Orca Book Publishers, which caters to young readers, has launched a series it calls Rapid Reads under its Raven Books imprint.
Despite this probably being a smart move by a publisher, I was not excited by it at first, as I prefer "reads" you can actually spend some time reading—getting into a hefty novel's characters, environs and situation.
But then I noted that one of the first of the Rapid Reads was by Sylvia Maultash Warsh. Her four previous and full-length novels, including three mysteries featuring amateur sleuth Dr. Rebecca Temple, had all been glowingly reviewed in this column—lauded particularly for their substance. So a slighter book by her intrigued. And, after all, some of the world's greatest literary works have been in the short novel or novella form.
It turns out that Best Girl is quite a bit different from Maultash Warsh's previous work in ways apart from the shorter length. For one thing it is written for that nebulous "young adult" market, which usually means it's narrated from the perspective of a young person—in this case, a young woman just out of school, working as a hair stylist and dreaming of becoming a song writer. Amanda has been adopted since her parents were supposedly killed in a car accident when she was a toddler and she's been raised by a single woman. But her life changes when she receives a phone call bringing into question everything she's believed about her life.
The rest of the story is her private investigation into an old murder, which also brings her into the world of popular music she's been hoping to break into.
Somewhat off-putting at first for a reader used to Maultash Warsh's rich language and emotional complexity, the story is told rather simply. Little description, functional dialogue and short, colloquial sentences—perfect for its intended readership. It skips along rather quickly, with enough psychological depth to keep young people interested in the character and not too much to bore them.
They mystery is still a good one though and unwinds convincingly. Even an older reader (ahem) who fancies himself an expert at solving fictional crimes was taken aback by the resolution.
Kudos to the author for trying something different with her fifth outing. And pulling it off so well.