Thursday, July 17, 2014

2015 Contenders: Hunter Moran Digs Deep, by Patricia Reilly Giff

In Hunter Moran Digs Deep, our titular protagonist is hot on the trail of the mysterious treasure hidden by Lester Dinwitty, founder of the town of Newfield. Together with his twin, Zack, their kid brother, Steadman, and their frenemy Sarah Yulefsky, Hunter is working on piecing together the clues that will lead to the loot. However, someone else seems to have the same idea, so Hunter and his posse will have to work quickly -- even though there are constant distractions involving drum lessons, leaf raking, and a birdhouse that Mr. Moran has been building, which Zack and Hunter have accidentally destroyed.

Digs Deep is the third book chronicling the adventures of Hunter Moran. I missed last year's Hunter Moran Hangs Out, but I did review Hunter Moran Saves the Universe back in 2012. I wasn't overly fond of that one, and Digs Deep unfortunately has many of the same issues. The main plot moves so quickly that it feels jumpy, and many of the side plots get minimal coverage at best. The book is also very short -- so short and so stuffed to the gills with moving parts that the character development is sidelined.

I also had questions about the book's setting. Lester Tinwitty's gravestone lists his date of death as 1905, and Hunter states that the search for the treasure has been going on "for a hundred years," which would seem to make the time frame essentially contemporary. However, although Mr. Moran's computer is mentioned, no one seems to have a cell phone. Additionally, one of Hunter's verbal tics is quoting catchphrases from TV shows, followed immediately by the name of the show and the time it airs -- something that's going to be on the spectrum from "quaint" to "incomprehensible" for child readers raised on TiVo, Hulu, and On-Demand cable. It felt very out-of-touch to me.

So, I don't see any Newbery love for Digs Deep, but it did make me want to read Lily's Crossing or Pictures of Hollis Woods, Patricia Reilly Giff's pair of Newbery Honor books. I've never read either one -- the only other Giff novel I've read was Gingersnap, which I thought had many of the same weaknesses as the Hunter Moran books. But I'd like to look at the Honor titles, to see if Giff is just an author that doesn't do it for me, or if it's simply that I've been reading her second-tier books.

Publication in September by Holiday House

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