Book Review: Sydney Mackenzie Knocks 'Em Dead by Cindy Callaghan

Sydney Mackenzie Knocks 'Em DeadTitle: Sydney Mackenzie Knocks 'Em Dead
Author: Cindy Callaghan
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: Aladdin (Simon & Schuster)
Format: eARC/(Purchased) Hardback
Source: Publisher
Age Group: Middle Grade
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery

West Coast girl Sydney Mackenzie moves to Delaware after her parents inherit a cemetery—and becomes involved in a mystery surrounding the Underground Railroad—in this M!X novel from the author of Lost in London, Lost in Paris, Lost in Rome, and Lost in Ireland. Sydney Mackenzie is an aspiring filmmaker and average California Girl. So when her parents drop the biggest bombshell ever—they have inherited a cemetery called Lay to Rest, which means a move to boring Delaware—Sydney is NOT happy. And to make matters worse? Their “new” house is actually right on the cemetery grounds—and it isn’t exactly California chic. But after settling in, Sydney discovers that the creepy old house might have more history than she once thought. And someone—or something—is encouraging her to delve deeper into a decades-old mystery that dates back to the Underground Railroad. Will Sydney’s filmmaking skills and the help of some new friends be enough for her get to the bottom of the mystery of her new home?
This (early) middle grade book was cute and fun to read, especially when I was craving a semi-spooky book now that we are going into summer. And I got so much more than expected when this story offered a bit of historical mystery, adventures, and a touch of romance.

We first find Sydney living in "fabulousCalifornia. Her parents' business is failing and really, Sydney is exhausted at feeling like she needs to keep up appearances with her friends. But then she finds out that her father inherited a house in Delaware. And not only is it not ordinary - it's a funeral home. Sydney is even more surprised when she arrives in the town of Buttermilk River Cove and discovers that the Victorian house is situated right on cemetery grounds.

This makes for an exciting change because finally she thinks she'll move up the social ladder by impressing everyone of her Californian status. Little does she know, no one cares. And she begins to develop a friendship with some of her classmates who are more impressed she lives right next to the undead than anything else.

I expected ghost tales, an actual haunting, perhaps, but what i didn't expect was the historical mystery that ensues. The author did a great job blending the elements of this story with the fact that Delaware is the first state of the Union. It's a state steeped in history and we get the uncovering of an Undercover Railroad, discussions of slaves and the Emancipation Proclamation, and more lighthearted details such as the recipes provided at the end of the book which made me crave hot cocoa made with buttermilk. The ending (or author's note) was also very beautiful and touched me.

This is perfect for tween readers (and adults) out there who enjoy books with a pinch of spooky mystery, friendships, and history. This is especially a great book that demonstrates the importance of being yourself and that honesty really is the best policy.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing an advanced copy through Netgalley!


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