Dec 1, 2008

Paper Quake

Kathryn Reiss, Paper Quake: A Puzzle, 1996, Harcourt Paperbacks.

This book is a mix of historical fiction and mystery that revolves around a girl named Violet who after a tremor finds letters literally coming out of the seams of the building her parents new San Francisco floral shop is located in. Reading the letters Violet is startled to find parallels between the life of the girl who is writing the letters and her own: a sick girl who is plagued by cruel twin sisters. She also finds that V, who died sometime around the 1906 earthquake the decimated San Francisco, had dreams of a larger quake striking the modern city wreaking death and destruction--and now Violet is beginning to have those dreams herself. As the days pass and the Bay Area is shook by more tremors, Violet races to comb through the documents left from that time in order to find the answers: when will the big one hit and how can she warn everyone before it happens?

The book was an interesting take on modern day teens attempting to solve a mystery that happened decades before. Although there were some echoes of Caroline B. Cooney's Out of Time quartet, the book relied more on using historical documents than actual time travel in order to solve the mystery. There were some themes which I found unusual in a young adult novel, one in particular, the relationship between Violet and her sister Rose. Namely, Rose treats her sister with an attitude of resentment which often borders on outright hatred, since the healthier triplets are responsible for anything that happens to Violet's health although she has not had any health problems since she was a young child. Usually there is sibling discord in ya books but to see out and out hatred expressed was, for me, a first.

Unfortunately the actual mystery was thin and the solving of it was rooted far too much in pure coincidence than actual investigatory work. And as always we never find out the answer to the real mystery of the story, in this instance: was V murdered or did she die from her own weak heart?

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