Thursday, September 1, 2011

REVIEW: Griff Carver, Hallway Patrol by Jim Krieg

Rating: 4.5/5
Audience: Middle Grade/Tween
Genre: Mystery

Summary: Griff Carver is a safety patrol legend, but after going too far in the name of justice he was expelled from his old school. Now he's at Rampart Middle School and determined to sniff out the corruption lurking beneath the squeaky-clean surface. Unfortunately, Griff makes an immediate enemy of the school principal after calling him out for littering, and his new partner is an overly chatty Camp Scout who is blind to the fishy goings-on at Rampart.

Tracy's Thoughts:
This is one of the best middle-grade novels I've read in ages—perhaps ever. Television writer Jim Krieg has cleverly taken the tone of a 40s' noir film and applied it to a modern-day middle school. Griff is a hard-nosed, dedicated hall cop with an uncanny instinct for crime-solving. He's suspicious of everyone and quickly catches on to a fake hall pass scheme. Along the way, he makes unlikely allies in his naive by-the-books partner, the school's ambitious girl reporter, and a wise but mysterious janitor. Plus, an arch villain emerges who is sure to butt heads with Griff in future books. (Are you listening, Mr. Krieg? We want sequels, and lots of 'em!)

The narrative is actually a blend of first person accounts, most of them made up of guidance counselor interview transcripts from Griff's perspective and incident reports from his super-conscientious partner Tommy. There are also a handful of snark-filled diary journal entries from ace reporter Verity King. I think this style allows each of the characters' personalities to shine, and will likely appeal to Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans ready for a slightly more challenging read without the cartoons. There are a few words that will challenge younger readers, but Krieg's easy, relaxed writing style will keep them eagerly turning the pages.

Overall, this is a smart, laugh-out-loud whodunit with style. Krieg creates a slightly skewed yet wonderfully realistic version of middle school, and his characters are engaging and likeable. Griff's dedication is so intense it is comical, and his pithy remarks are often startlingly funny. Tommy's bumbling earnestness is equally endearing. Griff Carver is a clever, fast-paced read, with kid-friendly humor and a vivid setting and characters. As I said earlier, I am really hoping for sequels so that I can visit again.

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