This week I reached into my huge pile of books to be read and pulled out Playing For Keeps by Joan Lowery Nixon, whose mystery The Séance I read a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed. Playing For Keeps was just as good; suspenseful and tense with pretty good character development for a YA mystery offering. It was also a quick read which I was able to finish in one sitting.
Summary: Just when Rosie thinks she is going to end up grounded for the rest of her life by her mom, her paternal grandmother, Glory, shows up needing a roommate for a Caribbean cruise. Leaving unfinished business with her mother at home, Rosie finds herself whisked aboard ship where she discovers that her grandmother’s real purpose was to get her to spend time with a friend’s very nice grandson, Neil, who is clearly not Rosie’s type with his Hawaiian shirts and knowledge of trivial facts.
Before the trip can become a total failure, though, Rosie finds herself in the middle of an international mystery involving a retired Cuban baseball player and his nephew, Ricky, a refugee fleeing his island home.
In order to keep Ricky from being sent back to Cuba where he will be punished for fleeing, possibly even killed, Rosie gets help from Neil and her new friend, Julia, whose parents fled Cuba many years before. Together, the four teens must manage to outsmart a Cuban policeman, the ship’s security crew, and their own families to make sure Ricky gets the chance to make it to American soil and ask for political asylum.
The story involves romance, espionage, and a lot of tense situations. There is murder, suspicion, and lots of situations where the reader and the characters aren’t sure who can be trusted. Rosie’s guilt about her fight with her mother is also laced throughout the story, and as she realizes what other people face (through Ricky’s plight) she comes to regret her previous choices somewhat. Playing for Keeps is a satisfying story with a fun ending that doesn’t leave any glaring loose ends.
Morality (What is right?)
Standing up for your beliefs
Grades 7 & up
Areas of concern (content):
Foul Language: none
Nudity/Adult Content: mild kissing