Saturday, November 28, 2015

Nostalgiareads: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Hello readers and welcome to the first installment of my new blog series, Nostalgiareads! Just as the title suggests, I'll be re-reading some of the nostalgic books from my childhood in an effort to discover old favorites or, worst case scenario, realize that some books are best left to the past.

I figured why not publish a blog post on this most auspicious of Black Friday days, where millions of people forget how thankful they were for everything they had yesterday in favor of rampant consumerism. Not that I can say much because my debit card is still recovering from shock.

When I first conceived of this series, a number of books immediately popped into my head, but the one that I desperately wanted to re-read is the one you'll be reading about today: The Westing Game. So grab yourself a cup of tea, some Thanksgiving leftovers (if you're American that is) and enjoy me blathering about a book from my childhood.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin is a children's mystery book that has won quite a number of awards, most notably the Newbery Medal, and for good reason. The books starts off by introducing readers to Sunset Towers, a new apartment building near Samuel Westing's mansion. Our cast of characters are specially selected to inhabit this apartment building. Sixteen people's lives are changed when Samuel Westing dies and his will labels them as the potential heirs to his vast fortune. Of course nothing is ever that simple and in order to get the money, they have to be the first one to use the clues and solve the westing game. While the majority of the book involves the group trying to solve their respective clues, it also delves into the complexities of each character's life.

The Westing Game sticks out as a nostalgic read because it was one of the books I loved at the end of elementary school. When I was in 5th grade, this was one of the many awesome books my teacher chose for our read aloud time. While other people hated having to quietly sit and listen to the teacher read, I loved it. The mystery of Samuel Westing's clues kept me enraptured and as soon as the class finished this book I went and bought it from the book fair. Like many others that read this book, I identified with Turtle Wexler, the not so pretty girl that felt like a outcast, but she was incredibly intelligent. I'll admit that when I finally read this in the privacy of my own room as a kid, I did tear up a little at the ending.

Now for the most important part of this post: does the nostalgia still hold up today? The short answer is absolutely yes. While the story is needlessly convoluted and sometimes the characters seem a tad one dimensional, I'm totally fine with that since this is a children's book. I figure with a cast of 16 characters, it would be a little difficult for any author to make them all complex.That being said this book broaches topics like insecurity, marriage instability, and of course following your dreams despite outside pressures. I realized during the re-reading experience that this type of mystery novel completely predicted/predated my current love for Agatha Christie novels. In fact, the year after I read The Westing Game,  I discovered my first Agatha Christie book. In this instance, I got the chance to look back and discover where my love of murder mysteries came from. I would recommend this book to kids and adults alike and for me, this book will remain a nostalgia read. Until my next post, enjoy the start of the holiday season. I know I am.