Review of middle-grade mystery adventure Relatively Normal Secrets by C.W. Allen
Like most siblings, Tuesday and Zed don’t always get along. Unlike most siblings, their arguments are over things like whether their parents are hiding a life of crime, or are simply the weirdest adults on the planet. When they decide to go on the hunt for some solid evidence, things get weirder than ever: two thugs with shape-shifting swords show up, their dog shows off some tricks she definitely didn’t learn in obedience school, and even their treehouse turns out to be more than meets the eye.
Their escape leaves Zed and Tuesday stranded in a land where robots and holograms live alongside quaint medieval villagers and soldiers on horseback. Soldiers who insist their father is a disgraced fugitive, and their dog a legendary monster.
If they ever want to see their parents again, they’ll have to learn to work together. After all, they’ve got a mysterious code to break, secrets to unlock, bandits and soldiers to outwit, and a rowdy dog whose antics are getting more outrageous by the minute. Even if they manage to evade the eerie secret police and uncover enough clues to figure out what’s really going on, they’re not sure they’re going to like the truth.
Zed and Tuesday will have to decide who to trust and what really matters, or they’ll never get back to normal (whatever that is.) Because when it comes to normal, everything is relative.
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At lunch, her father was the headlining topic of conversation. Perhaps, everyone joked, he was some kind of secret agent—if anyone found out what he really did all day, he’d have to erase their memories or have them deported to Jupiter. Tuesday made a hasty decision: better to ride the wave of laughter, than drown in it. This was ridiculous, of course!
Of course it was.
Tuesday heaved her backpack onto the lunch table and made a production of searching for a missing paper until the cafeteria’s collective attention bounded on to a new distraction. She retrieved last week’s History assignment and tried to look intensely interested in reviewing it, staring through the page with unfocused eyes while zoning out to the satisfying snapping sound her carrot sticks made, the pitch falling rhythmically as her teeth chopped each one shorter and shorter.
The newly-hatched suspicions about her parents’ routines burrowed in with the rest of the doubts nesting in her brain. It wasn’t just the way they sidestepped any mention of their lives before they had children. It wasn’t just their odd taste in names. It was just—oh, everything.
Her last name should have been different, for one thing; Tuesday was sure of it. Her father wouldn’t say what it might have been, but anything else would have been fine with her, really. Anything that wouldn’t make her a walking punchline. If her parents hadn’t been so weird, her mother would have taken her father’s last name when they got married, like normal people. Then Tuesday could have inherited his name, instead of just his face.
Buy Relatively Normal Secrets:
This was all kinds of the middle grade fun that I live for. The world was fresh and interesting. The two main characters are smart and quick-thinkers. The names are lovely, and the big reveals surprised me (some more than others, but there were things I didn’t see coming, definitely). I couldn’t put this down, and I very much didn’t want to.
The nursery rhymes were a fantastic touch. I won’t spoil, but I will say that they were an integral and subtle part of the overall mystery. That entire plotline came together so well. And the dog. Loved the dog. Where do I get a dog that can create darkness and burst into flames? Because, to quote Flynn Rider from Tangled, “I’m not gonna lie, that would be stupendous.”
I’d say more, but I think I’ve said it all. This was great. Go read it. Give it to your kids so they can read it. I can’t recommend it enough, and I’ll be here, waiting for the sequel (because with that ending, there better be a sequel).
About C.W. Allen
C.W. Allen is a Nebraskan by birth, a Texan by experience, a Hoosier by marriage, and a Utahn by geography. She knew she wanted to be a writer the moment she read The Westing Game at age twelve, but took a few detours along the way as a veterinary nurse, an appliance repair secretary, and a homeschool parent.
She recently settled in the high desert of rural Utah with her husband, their three children, and a noisy flock of orphaned ideas. Someday she will create literary homes for all of them. (The ideas, not her family.)
Relatively Normal Secrets (Cinnabar Moth Publishing, Fall 2021) is her debut novel. She writes fantasy novels for tweens, picture books for children, and short stories and poems for former children. Her work will appear in numerous anthologies in 2021. She is also a frequent guest presenter at writing conferences and club meetings, which helps her procrastinate knuckling down to any actual writing.
Find her online:
C. W. Allen will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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