School Library Journal
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Gr 8-10-Sara Jane Rispoli is no ordinary teen. While she's worried about the regular stuff-boys, friends, and the upcoming school dance-she also has to contend with situations nobody her age should. Coming home after school one day, she finds her front door ajar and the house ransacked. While investigating, she is attacked by a large man in a black ski mask. Her instincts take over, and she begins an epic run for her life that, she hopes, will uncover the truth about why her family vanished and whether or not they are still alive. While some passages of this story are engaging, including action sequences that are forthright and expeditious, they can't mask the weaker elements, including unrealistic dialogue and poor characterization. While Sara Jane's uncle and his mysterious wife serve their intended purpose as the novel's chief antagonists, their motivations are never clear enough to justify why they are willing to kill Sara for her mysterious silver briefcase. Crooked Detective Smelt and her seemingly endless army of evil police officers are more like campy caricatures than believable villains. Sara Jane herself is never really a protagonist readers will get behind, as she seems more interested in cracking corny jokes about those chasing her than actually saving the family she claims to care so much about.-Ryan Donovan, New York Public Library (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Let down by plot holes and a barely developed supporting cast, Goeglein's debut, first in a planned trilogy, fails to do its nifty hook justice. When Sara Jane Rispoli's family goes missing and she is nearly abducted, the 16-year-old suspects her jealous Uncle Buddy is behind the crime. A hidden tape from Sara Jane's father reveals a secret room in the family bakery that helps her discover the Rispolis' history with the Chicago mob. While there are several fun hooks in the story (including a series of "Capone Doors," secret escape doors hidden in many old Chicago buildings and El stations), they pale next to oddities like a four-star hotel staffed entirely by mob employees, mob enforcers beating up a school bully, and a case of literal (and ludicrous) rattus ex machina. Adding to the mix are inexplicable character decisions--most notably Sara Jane's decision to return to school while still on the run from her assailants--and the sort of large-scale cop-and-mobster collusion that falls apart unless all the players are hypercompetent. Ages 12-up. Agent: Jason Anthony, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Sara Jane Rispoli is yanked from her normal life when her parents and brother disappear, and she is left with a pile of loot, a gun, and a notebook of clues to the family's past. It seems that the oven at the family bakery is a portal to Chicago's Prohibition days, and it is only one of many hidey holes Sara Jane explores as she works to evade baddies, find her folks, and keep her own neck from being broken by the mysterious, squeaky-voiced, ski-masked lunk who appears at inopportune moments. Goeglein also splices in Sara Jane's life as the would-be girlfriend of a classmate, and a friend of the school's gossip queen. All this action and world building allows the reader to willingly suspend disbelief, as Sara Jane is pummeled by surprises. The denouement promises a sequel, and here's hoping it's got as much adrenalin and humor as this first outing. For readers who have had to look to adult suspense for a rush, this novel has a heroine worth cheering for.--Goldsmith, Francisca Copyright 2010 Booklist