Unstoppable, fierce, feisty Sara Jane Rispoli is an uber-cool teen heroine with an in-your-face attitude and she won’t cower down from bullies, bullets, or baddies. Girls will admire her and want to be her; guys will want to meet her and if they’re brave, date her. From the first words in the “prelude,” I was reading with breathless anticipation of what would happen next. This book is a suspenseful thrill-ride that will have teens reading into the wee hours of the morning.
The day of her sixteenth birthday, Sara returns home to an empty and darkened house. It’s unusual—where is her family? She enters and can’t believe her eyes. The living room is tossed—someone was looking for something—and whoever it was didn’t appear to find it. She investigates and finds blood on the wall and their family dog has been badly beaten. Just then, a man jumps on her in the dark basement. Sara is a fighter—she’s been training at a local boxing gym for years, and she gets in a few well-aimed licks and jumps into her dad’s old Lincoln along with Harry the dog who helps her escape. Sara’s on the lam and running out of time to find answers.
She goes to the gym where she thinks she can find a safehouse until she can figure out what happened and who is after her. She knows not to trust the cops because they are now looking for her, too. The one thing she carried out of the house is a cheap plaster bust of Frank Sinatra that always sat on their mantle. It has a camera in it, and Sara Jane replays the tape and sees her father’s last message to her. He is in a panic and tells her to go to the God of Fire. It’s code for the Vulcan oven in her family’s bakery.
Sara Jane follows the clues and finds a hidden room, a coded notebook, a Sig Sauer .45 (gun), $96,000 in cash and an Amercan Express Black card in her name. What did her father intend when he left all this behind? Sara Jane deciphers what’s in the notebook—much of it is yellowed and very old and some of it is in Italian.
She reads the history of her family and realizes that their very being is a sham. Her grandfather was a powerful man in Chicago and her whole family is “mobbed up.” The notebook holds the ultimate key, and whoever wants it will stop at nothing to get that notebook away from Sara Jane.
Her pudgy but helpful friend Doug steps in as “Robin” to her “Batman” and they take the fight to the criminals. This books sets up the sequel nicely. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!
I predict this is going to be a huge title. The cover with the picture of a tough looking girl holding a steel briefcase is edgy and screams, “BUY ME! “ The back cover and inner cover hooked me, and I had to purchase this book for myself. Teens are going to love this one.
Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up. Some violence, mob references to crimes, Doug mentions he doesn’t know if he likes boys or not—but he doesn’t go into detail and he’s never acted on it. No other sexual references. 312 pages Ages 12 and up
Recommended by: Pamela Thompson, Librarian, Texas USA