Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Reflections: The Westing Game

The Westing Game is a wonderful book if you're intrigued by mysteries, especially those of the less bloody or violent kind. I enjoyed The Westing Game in a superficial way and was perfectly content in allowing it to take me along on a topsy-turvy and unique adventure and spend it with some equally unique characters. Yet, in the end, I didn't exactly understand the point of The Westing Game and, frankly, why it, both the titular game and the book itself, exists.

To begin with, Ellen Raskin should be commended for the characters she has created in this book. They are all far more developed, in small and memorable ways, than many characters in other books ever are, even with a great deal more time to be developed. I remembered the characters, which is a signature accomplishment. (Although, I will say that reading The Westing Game in only a few sittings is probably the best option since it could be very easy to lose track of events after a moderate lapse of time). As wonderfully distinct as the characters are, some of their motivations seemed a little suspect to me by the end of the book.

I liked The Westing Game far more than I didn't; however, it has, in my opinion, a singular flaw. I don't know why the game itself exists. It's a fun ride, but is that the main reason? The book dances around a possible reason for the game, but the game seems so elaborate and so complex that I couldn't help but think there was an easier way to accomplish it. Why the secrecy? Why the MacGuffins and distractions? The book is intended for a younger audience which may not care nearly as much as I about such an element, but it nevertheless left me puzzled. (Perhaps that's the point?).

I think aspiring mystery writers could learn a thing or two from The Westing Game. It leaves an effective path of bread crumbs which eventually culminates into a reveal that isn't earth-shattering but isn't obnoxious either. To use a trite phrase, The Westing Game is good, clean fun, even if the fun doesn't have much point outside of itself.

The Westing Game won the Newbery Medal in 1979.

Other Topics of Interest:
Thousander Must-Reads Vol. 2
What Should a 9th Grader Read?

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