"The most winning junior detective ever in teen lit. (Take that, Nancy Drew!)" —Midwest Children's Book Review
This is not the summer camping trip of Sammy's dreams. She imagined shady glades, meandering streams, a deer or two. What she gets are scrubby shrubs, blazing sun, rattlesnakes, ticks, and scorpions. Her fellow campers are desperate to catch a rare glimpse of an endangered condor. To Sammy, the trip is nothing more than the painful in pursuit of the unspeakably ugly.
But when she and two other girls find an injured condor, Sammy's intrigued at last. As they track down a clue, they stumble onto two classmates and wind up lost. Which leaves three girls and two boys in a canyon with one tent and six billion biting flies. Oh—and an armed and dangerous highstakes poacher.
The Sammy Keyes mysteries are fast-paced, funny, thoroughly modern, and true whodunits. Each mystery is exciting and dramatic, but it's the drama in Sammy's personal life that keeps readers coming back to see what happens next with her love interest Casey, her soap-star mother, and her mysterious father.
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If Marissa or Holly or Dot had been around, I wouldn't have been thinking about Casey Acosta at all. But since they weren't around, and since Casey does qualify as a friend (even though he's my archenemy Heather's brother), okay, I admit it--he had crossed my mind.
More than once.
Partly that was because I'd seen him at the mall a couple of times during the first few days of summer break. Marissa was with me the first time, and she practically choked my arm off with her grip when she spotted him coming out of Sports Central. "Sammy, look! It's Casey."
I wanted to say, So? but it just didn't come out.
Then he spotted us, and the three of us wound up cruising through the mall, laughing the whole afternoon away.
It was fun.
Like being with friends should be.
The second time I was by myself. I'd escaped the Senior Highrise, cruised the whole town on my skateboard looking for something, anything to do, and finally I'd wound up at the mall.
Did I go to the arcade?
Did I go to the music store?
To any of the clothing stores?
Like a moronic moth to the flame, I fluttered over to the only place I'd ever bumped into Casey at the mall--Sports Central.
Now, I've got every right to go into a sporting goods store. I like sports. But I didn't go inside. I stood outside, pretending to window-shop, with my heart racing and my hands sweating, a shouting match going on inside my head.
"What are you doing?"
"I don't know!"
"Why don't you just go inside!"
"Because I don't need anything!"
"So what! Just go inside!"
"Because standing out here is the lamest thing you've ever done in your whole entire life!"
It was, too. I felt like one of those dingbat girls who walks back and forth past some guy's house, hoping he'll notice her. How stupid did I want to be? And what were the chances of Casey being here again? Why didn't I just call him up if I wanted to hang out with him?
So there I was, in the middle of a total mental spaz-out, when all of a sudden someone sneaks up behind me and pokes me in the ribs.
Before I can even think about what I'm doing, my elbow jabs back, punching deep into someone's stomach, and then wham, my fist flies up and back, smacking them in the face. And when I spin around, who do I see doubled up on the floor with blood coming out of his nose?
Nope, not Casey.
It's his goofball friend, Billy Pratt.
Casey is there, though. And even though his eyes are popped wide open, his words are really calm. "Dude, I told you not to startle her."
I drop to my knees and say to Billy, "Oh, man! I'm so sorry!"
He chokes out, "I'm good," but he's still totally winded, and blood's getting everywhere.
So I run to the pretzel stand, snag a bunch of napkins, and run back. "Here. Put some pressure on your nose. It'll stop the bleeding." Then I add, "I'm really sorry! It was . . . you know . . . a reflex."
He pinches the napkin against his nose and sits up, moaning, "No problem." He gives me a goofy grin. "I've had a stomach massage and a realignment. . . ." He shoves a corner of the napkin up his nose, and with the rest of the napkin dangling, he staggers to his feet and says, "I am totally ready to rock."
The thing about Billy Pratt is, you can't not laugh when you're with him. He is always, always "on," even when he's just been smacked to the floor by a girl. So being around him made the spastic thoughts I'd been having magically disappear. I followed him and Casey into the sporting goods store, where Casey picked out camping supplies while Billy harassed a clerk, acting like he was some hoity-toity British polo player instead of a kid with a bloody napkin dangling from his nose. "I say there, chap! These shorts say 'one hundred percent cotton,' but I must have combed Egyptian cotton or I break out in rashes. Absolutely wretched rashes! You wouldn't want to see, not at all! So I must know. I absolutely must know . . . are these combed Egyptian cotton?"
I whispered to Casey, "Do they even grow cotton in Egypt?"
"You got me," Casey whispered back. "Probably just Billy being Billy."
He'd turned and looked me in the eyes when he'd said that, only he didn't look away when he was done talking. He just kept right on looking me in the eyes.
Which of course made my heart skip around funny while glands everywhere burst forth with sweat. "Uh . . . so you're . . . uh . . . going camping, huh?" I said, showing off my brilliant intuitive talents.
He laughed, "Yup," and went back to picking out freeze-dried food. "Backpacking, remember?"
He had mentioned it at the end of the school year. Like twenty times.
"You've really never been?" he asked.
I shook my head.
He shrugged. "My dad and I got into it a few years ago. It's like camping, only cooler."
I hesitated, then said, "I've never been camping, either."
He stopped flipping through foil packages. "You? Never been camping?"
I shook my head again.
He went back to his freeze-dried selections. "Sorry. You just seem like . . ." His voice trailed off, and then he chuckled and said, "Now, Marissa. That I would believe. But you? You'd love camping."
"I don't know." I picked out a foil pouch of vegetable lasagna. It weighed hardly anything. "You actually eat this stuff?"
"That right there's pretty vile. But some of these are almost good." He grinned. "And after about day four, even the vile ones start tasting all right."
"You going with your dad?"
"Nah. He was planning to come, but then he got some big audition in L.A." He hitched a thumb in Billy's direction. "So now it's just me and Mr. Entertainment."
"You and Billy? And you expect to survive?"
He laughed out loud. "Yeah, my dad wasn't too hot on the idea, either. But I know what I'm doing, and he trusts me. And Billy's a good camper, believe it or not." He hesitated, then eyed me and said, "I don't suppose your mom would let you come along?"
It was my turn to laugh out loud. "I don't suppose . . . !"
And see? That's the stupid thing about trying to be friends with the opposite sex. How can you be friends when you can't do anything together? Even going to the movies becomes a big deal. Voices drop. Eyes bug. Gossip flies. "She went to the movies with him? Alone?" All that gasping and gossiping over what? A movie? Sharing some popcorn? Sitting next to each other and laughing? Maybe accidentally touching elbows?