Monday, January 09, 2006

Review: Dawn Undercover

Do you like really good middle-grade fiction?

Then run, don't walk, and find a copy of Anna Dale's Dawn Undercover. What a fantastic read! I loved this book so much, I may read it again. Soon. (I liked it, can you tell?)

Dawn Buckle is an ordinary girl living what can only be called a Dahlesque life at Number Eight, Windmill View, in the outskirts of London. Her ancient grandfather watches quiz shows at all hours of the day and night, her mother is a workaholic, and her father buries himself in the basement repairing and collecting clocks. Dawn just wants someone to notice her:
  • Dawn was not an outgoing child. She was timid, bland and nondescript. Slightly on the dumpy side, with a round, pallid face, hair the colour of milky tea and a sprinkling of hairs in each eyebrow, it could not be said that Dawn was very striking to look at. She wore crumpled, baggy clothes and was never without a pair of mushroom-coloured knee socks and battered gym shoes. People always tended to look through her or over her head, but never directly at her. (11-12)

But someone finally does notice Dawn--a representative of S.H.H., a top-secret government agency. Dawn's family offers very little (okay, no) resistance when Emma Cambridge of the S.H.H. whisks Dawn away to train for a secret mission in the quaint village of Cherry Bentley. Working for the P.S.S.T. Department, Dawn is employed to identify Murdo Meek, a criminal mastermind and arch nemesis of P.S.S.T., amongst twelve village residents.

Dawn Undercover is a gripping, hilarious read. The plot is good, but characterization and satire (of village and suburban life, of bureaucracy) are definitely Dale's strong suits.

Highly, highly recommended.