March 24, 2018

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Who Killed Christopher Goodman? by Allan Wolf | SLJ Review

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redstarWOLF, Allan. Who Killed Christopher Goodman? 288p. Candlewick. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763656133.

who killed christopher goodmanGr 9 Up –Christopher Goodman wears ridiculous bell bottoms, and the way he shakes hands with people is a little strange. He’s also a genuinely nice guy, which is why everyone in Goldsburg, VA, is shocked when Chris is murdered during 1979’s Deadwood Days, a Western street festival that draws tourists to the town every summer. While on a cross-country run, classmates Doc Chestnut and Squib Kaplan find Chris’s body. Along with Hunger McCoy, Hazel Turner, and Mildred Penny, Doc and Squib carry the burden of knowing that they may have inadvertently played a part in the tragedy. As Wolf explains in his author’s note, this mystery is inspired by an actual murder that occurred when he was a teen. The book features six narrators, including Chris’s killer, and scenes that incorporate group dialogue are written in a screenplay format, which also extends to the book’s initial “cast”: David Oscar “Doc” Chestnut, the Sleepwalker; Leonard Pelf, the Runaway; Scott “Squib” Kaplan, the Genius; Hunger McCoy, the Good Ol’ Boy; Hazel Turner, the Farm Girl; and Mildred Penny, the Stamp Collector. Distinctive narrative styles help readers differentiate among characters, with long-winded sentences for Squib, who has Tourette’s syndrome, and verse passages for Leonard. Wolf uses these unique formats to excellent effect to create a gripping mystery as well as a thoughtful character study in which the six teens grapple with their actions on the night of the murder and their blame, if any, in Christopher Goodman’s death. VERDICT Recommended for most YA collections, this fast-paced novel will appeal to reluctant readers as well as fans of mystery and suspense.–Emma Carbone, Brooklyn Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal January 2017 issue.