coming out · historical · juvenile · lgbtqia content · mystery · part of series · suspense · young adult

REVIEW: The Riddles of Mulberry Island by Huston Piner

The Official Description: While out fishing one bright summer day, fifteen-year-old Tommy Oakley is startled to spy what appears to be a giant fish surfacing in the inlet near Mulberry Island. Confused and a little fearful, he returns to Bayside, the tiny village where he lives, and recruits Wendy to help him solve the mystery.

A few nights later, Tommy goes camping with his best friend John, and they’re alarmed to see ghostly lights floating above the water and movement inside the island’s abandoned mansion.

Everyone in Bayside knows the island is uninhabited, but they also think it’s haunted, so Tommy and John are more than ready to stay away. But the strong-willed Wendy convinces the reluctant boys to investigate the source of the lights, thereby setting in motion a harrowing adventure that has them dodging bullets and running for their lives, all the while struggling to sort out their conflicted feelings for one another.

One thing is certain—if they survive the summer at all, things will never be the same between them again.

Just the facts: Young Adult themes, mystery, LGBTQIA+ content, violence

A trio of young teens embark upon a dangerous journey to solve a mystery. – Kinzie Things

My thoughts bit: This was an interesting one! Tommy, Wendy, and John are friends and they are spending the summer together when they can escape their chores. It’s 1952… and the three pre-teens set out on an adventure.

Tommy has been given a boat and when he finally convinces his parents that he is old enough to take it out, he sees something spooky. Something that looks like a sea creature appears and thus begins the mystery.

This reminded me of a good old Hardy Boys mystery when it began. A mysterious light on the water, a strange sea creature… the mystery lures these teens into the boat and back to Mulberry Island and that’s when things get dangerous.

I think that even though the characters are solving a mystery… much of this book is about growing up, growing closer and friendship. My favorite character was John. He is a sweet soul, protective and caring in spite of the fact that his home life is terrible. John has an abusive father and no one seems to care about him except his friends.

I loved the friendship between John, Tommy, and Wendy. There’s some jealousy blooming as the three of them jockey for position with one another. As they move into their teens, they clearly are beginning to feel more for one another and that’s going to end up with someone left out in a way. The development of feelings between them is very natural and I enjoyed the way it progressed.

My only confusion about this book is that it would be a great middle-grade book if it weren’t for the violence that is included in it. I found the voice of the characters to be quite young for 15… which is totally fine. I would probably recommend this to younger readers!

Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) Child endangerment, adults threatening children, kidnapping of children, verbal, physical and domestic abuse of a child, shootings

Links: Goodreads // The Author // The Publisher

I received an ARC of The Riddles of Mulberry Island by Huston Piner from NineStar Press via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

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