The name Robin Caroll is a familiar one to fans of Christian fiction mystery titles like “Injustice For All” and “Fear No Evil.” Caroll, however, is also the author of a series of books for young girls that feature a seventh-grade girl by the name of Samantha Sanderson. The first book in the series published by Zonderkidz is “At the Movies” and it introduces Sam (as she prefers to be called), her friend Makayla, and Sam’s parents. Her dad is police detective and her mom is an international investigative journalist. For tween girls, this is just one of the series in the FaithGirlz collection that parents won’t have to worry about their daughters reading.
The book opens with the discovery of a bomb in the movie theater at which Sam and Makayla are watching a movie. Thankfully, her dad is with them and the bomb is found before anyone is injured. Of course, Sam sees this as the perfect opportunity to make a name for herself on the staff of her school newspaper. It might even help propel her to her goal of being editor during her eight-grade year. With her mom away on assignment and her dad busy working to find out who placed the bomb and why, Sam does everything she can to be a good journalist without going too far. Unfortunately before too long, Sam is being called into the principal’s office for her articles asking students to share their thoughts on the theater owner, a woman who has left the Christian faith for atheism, and for stepping over the line in her zeal for good reporting.
This book will easily appeal to juvenile readers who like mystery as there are plenty of twists and turns and the reader doesn’t discover until the end who the culprit is and their motive. The characters are realistic; they go to youth group, but still have crushes on the boys in their class and have struggles with obeying their parents. The plan of salvation is explained by Samantha to a non-believing friend in a believable way without being overly preachy and dogmatic and even though there are a few girls Sam chooses not to be friends with, their antagonistic relationship with one another feels what this Examiner remembers middle school to be like. This isn’t a sanitized version of “Gossip Girl” or something along those lines. The author does a fine job of creating both characters and situations the reader can feel connected to and relate to, as well.
The second book in the Samantha Sanderson series is titled “On the Scene.” A third title, “Off the Record” is scheduled to be released in April 2015. All the FaithGirlz books can be purchased at independent bookstores and from online booksellers.
The Children’s Fiction Examiner received a free copy of “At the Movies” from the publisher.