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Notorious: 03/10/20


Notorious by Gordon Korman is set on another fictional border island shared by Michigan and Ontario, or more broadly, the USA and Canada. Like Queensville, MI, of the Vintage Kitchen mystery series, Centerville/Centreville island exists on the St Clair River. This time, though, it's roughly Stag Island (wholly part of Ontario) standing in for this fictional place.

This time, the fictional island with the border running through it, is a chance to reflect on international travel and international living in a time when even with a passport, travel across arbitrary lines isn't always possible. On either side of the border there are two tweens who are forming an unlikely friendship.

On the Michigan side there is Keenan. He has been sent to his father's house to recover from tuberculosis. He's used to a life in international school and living in dozens of different countries. The world had been his backyard and now he's stuck on a small island, in a small backyard while he's ordered to get about ten hours of fresh air.

On the Ontario side, there is ZeeBee. She's the only kid her age, meaning she's riding the ferry to Corunna with a bunch of little kids while all the kids her age are going to school on the island because they're American. Her father works for the Canada Border Services Agency, but mostly as a part-time lighthouse keeper.

Now imagine the island's history. Imagine a perfect entry point/hideaway for prohibition era gangsters. Imagine local lore about hidden gold.

Finally imagine a dog that only ZeeBee could love. Imagine that even after his death he's notorious. Everyone on the island, it seems, has a tale about something horrible the dog did.

That's the set up for a middle grade mystery that has a set up similar to Victoria Gilbert's Blue Ridge Library mystery series. There's a historical mystery and a modern day one. The two are connected but neither will be solved unless Keenan and ZeeBee can mend their friendship.

The how Keenan and ZeeBee finally come together to solve the mystery is framed in the road narrative spectrum. As both are tweens and both are oddballs among their peers, they are marginalized travelers (66). As the modern day mystery is tied to the historic one, the destination is uhoria (CC). The route they take is offroad (66), through forests and over hills. All together the mystery is solved by two marginalized (children) travelers to uhoria via an offroad route (66CC66).

Five stars

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