Title: Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills
Author: Carrie Cross
Publisher: Ward Design LLC DBA Teen Mystery Press
Release Date: July 30, 2013
Thirteen-year-old sleuth Skylar Robbins plans to become a private detective like her grandfather. Stuck at her bullying cousin Gwendolyn’s Malibu estate for the summer, Skylar brings her detective kit, portable spy tools, and her journal for taking notes in secret code. She had no idea how dangerous the next eight weeks would prove to be. On the first day of summer school an odd classmate named Kat passes a note in backward writing, introducing Skylar to the secret world of witchcraft. Practical Skylar didn’t believe in magic—until the spells they perform in an abandoned garden actually begin to work. Skylar finds herself accepting the increasingly risky challenges made by her new BF, and when Kat tells her that a mysterious group is doing wicked things up in Shadow Hills at night, she can’t help but investigate. Her classmates are nervous and rumors are flying. The teen sleuth uses the tools in her detective kit and faces her most embarrassing fear to find the truth. If Skylar survives the summer, her life will be changed forever.
Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills was written for the bullied kid in school, and the strong girl who protected her. The intelligent student who is misinterpreted as a nerd. The creative one who isn’t afraid to appear weird and different. And everyone who is afraid to take a risk—but is glad in the end that they had the courage.
My favorite books of all time were the ones I read in junior high, and they were further inspiration for the Skylar Robbins series. I have great memories of lying in bed on stormy nights reading Judy Blume novels like Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Changeling and The Velvet Room, Nancy Drew mysteries, and Harriet the Spy,. Since books for this age group were the most fun to read, I thought that they would also be the most enjoyable to write.
I planned to create a teen detective series, and decided to start a new trend: that the smartest kid in class can also be the coolest. The one kids look up to and want to follow. So many television shows over the years have had a main character who was the opposite of intellectual. Think of the lead roles in Happy Days, Beverly Hills 90210, Married with Children, That 70's Show, Vampire Diaries, and Gossip Girl. None of them use their brains in a way I'd want today's 'tweens to emulate.
So I created Skylar Robbins: a rational 13-year-old sleuth who methodically pieces together clues until she finally solves each challenging mystery. Very often smart kids in books, television shows, and movies are portrayed as dorks. I wanted to create a protagonist who kids could relate to, empathize with, and look up to. One who was quick-thinking, courageous, and determined, while also funny, cute, and cool.
Put a detective kit in a young girl's hands, and ask her to look for clues. Then decipher their meaning, put them together in the proper order, and use deductive reasoning to solve a fun and challenging mystery. Now that's a goal I'd be happy to see today’s teens going after. I want the smart kids in class to be proud of their brains, and not afraid to show them off for the asset that they really are.
Skylar Robbins is a relatable main character. She admits her fears to her readers while showing them creative ways to stand up to bullies and find the guts to try new things. Many of us have a secret phobia that we are ashamed to admit. Like an intelligent thirteen-year-old sleuth who is afraid of horses, while the rest of her class is horse crazy. We’ve all gone through the nervousness of the first day at a new school, had a relative or nasty classmate who picked on us, and have experienced feeling left out. Everyone has met a mean girl who keeps everyone on edge so they won’t realize how desperately afraid she is that no one likes her. We’ve all had that aggressive friend who pushed us to take dangerous chances or experiment with something we were ashamed to admit we were afraid to try. These characters all appear in Shadow Hills, and Skylar shows us clever ways to deal with them.
The storyline concentrates on Skylar's introduction into witchcraft. When an intriguing classmate promises her that the spells they’re about to cast in an abandoned garden will charm a cute boy and enable them to grow their own diamonds, Skylar reluctantly agrees to participate. She was too practical to believe in magic—until the witchcraft actually starts to work.
On a more important level, this book illustrates what true friendship is all about. The novel portrays the shallowness and dishonesty of the classmate who teaches Skylar about witchcraft with the genuineness of hearing-impaired Andy, a very tall African-American artist, Rudy “Beanpole” Dean, and especially Skylar's dyslexic BFF, Alexis. Rudy's parting words after the climax of the story, "Stay real, Skylar," are the essential message of the book.
At the end of The Mystery of Shadow Hills, Skylar sends a shout out to the readers: The Skylar Robbins Detective Agency needs a few secret agents to help solve her next case: The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels (June, 2014). But they must have mad detective skills. They need to decipher her web address (www.skylarrobbins.com), find the Secret Agent Application Form, and decode their password using a code they learned in the first book. The second mystery is interactive: Skylar’s agents will help her figure out what the clues mean by posting their guesses on the website. Seven secret agents have already signed up. Who’s next?
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About the Author
Carrie Cross is the author of the Skylar Robbins teen mystery series. She is currently at work on the fourth novel in the series, The Curse of Koma Island (2016).
Follow Carrie on Facebook, on Twitter and visit her Website for more information.