Thirteen-year-old Mary Beth is frustrated. With three brothers, she’s desperate for peace and quiet. Unfortunately, the only place she can find those things is an old abandoned barn that her parents tell her to leave alone. Still, she makes it her hide-away. She sneaks there as often as she can, and leaves snacks, drinks, a blanket, and her journal. It seems like the perfect place to get away from all of her responsibilities and her loud, obnoxious brothers. But soon she notices that something’s not right – her food is disappearing, something’s wrong with her journal, and the blanket was folded after she left. Is someone staying there? Who could it be? And why would they stay in such a fallen down barn? As the summer goes on, she and her twin brother Johnny investigate.
This YA book is the first in a series called The Mysteries of Middlefield. The family in focus is an Amish family from Middlefield, Ohio. The author took great pains to accurately portray the life of Amish people in Ohio, and it shows.
What I liked about this book is the believability of the person they find hiding in the barn. His attitude and behavior are much like they’d be in “real life.” I also think that the mystery was put together well.
What I didn’t like about this book is that through the majority of the book, Mary Beth and Johnny are sneaking behind their parents backs and lying to them. Even though it was to help a good cause, it wasn’t right. Though they get caught, eventually, and punished for it, I didn’t feel like that made up for it. The parents were understanding of what they were doing being a good thing – and that seemed more predominant. I would worry that this book could make kids think that it’s ok to sneak around if you’re doing something “good.”
The main character, Mary Beth, is a 13-year-old girl. An Amish girl, yes, but a girl nonetheless. However, as I was reading her thoughts, words, and actions, I felt that some of her behavior was much too naive to be a “real’ 13 year old. In fact, I’d say more like 8 or 10. I can’t imagine that the Amish children would act that much differently and think that much differently from “Yankees” and “Englishers.”
I also didn’t like that it was Amish. I know that sounds horrible, but bear with me. The Amish have become a very idolized people in the Christian culture. But if what the Amish believe and teach is right, wouldn’t we all be Amish instead of Christian? A lot of what the Amish teach and do is contrary to the Bible, and it bothers me to see people so eager to think the best of and promote the Amish. I’m not saying “hate the Amish,” but I don’t think it’s right to put them up on a pedestal as if we should all mirror their lives.
Overall, I’d give this book 3 stars out of 5. The mystery was good for kids (predictable if over, say, age 15 or 16), clean, and Mary Beth and Johnny ultimately learned a lesson about respecting parents and how to help people.
I received this book for free through Thomas Nelson’s BookSneeze Blogger Program in exchange for my honest review.