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Saturday, December 13th, 2008
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by Joan Bauer

The Report's In

A review by Sarah Miller

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Joan Bauer Captures Audiences With Young Adult Novel "Peeled"

DATELINE: Portland, Oregon. December 13.

Powell's Books employee Sarah Miller finds herself delighted by Joan Bauer's book Peeled, claiming: "another successful novel, both captivating and powerful."

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When aspiring journalist Hildy Biddle hears there is a death at the haunted Ludlow house, nothing can stop her from rushing to the scene, determined to find a breaking news story for her high school newspaper the Core. But "murder is a big word in a small town," especially to the citizens of Banesville in Upstate New York. A serene community known for its apple orchards, Banesville suddenly finds itself in the midst of a mysterious death investigation.

Hildy seeks the facts above all else in her quest to become a reporter, so when local newspaper the Bee begins publishing outrageous headlines surrounding the case, her determination heightens. But, fear runs deep in Banesville, and just as Hildy comes closer to unraveling the truth, her voice is silenced when the Core is suddenly shut down. Forced to find alternate methods of communication, Hildy is challenged to have her voice heard.

Joan Bauer's mastery of writing characters again proves itself in Hildy, the strong female protagonist we've come to expect from the Newbery Honor-winning author, delighting me as she did in Hope Was Here and Rules of the Road. As her character develops, Hildy struggles to learn what she believes in and grows up while doing so.

Bauer weaves a story of mystery, community strength, and revolution. Her powerful message shows what great things words can be and what horrible things they can do, and it pushes the reader to question the sources of the voices we hear and read everyday. But, Bauer does not lay these lessons heavy-handedly; instead, she allows room for interpretation and discovery. For these reasons, Peeled makes a great story to engage young readers in book groups and reading circles. This not to say adults won't enjoy it, also; in fact, I would recommend this as a captivating book for readers of any age.

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