Mitzi Clark & the Keepers of SHUT – Grace Mirchandani (2021)
One of the best outcomes from writing this book review blog has been the steady emails from authors and publishers requesting I read and review their book. As a life-long reader, this is a dream come true. Often, the books sent to me do not fit neatly with the types of books I have focused on here at RXTT’s Book Journey. I must admit that I do not read much fiction these days. Sometimes the requests involve a book I just do not have interest in reading. Other times the subject matter is too far from my interests. I respect authors and publishers, so I always make sure to communicate with them, whether or not I do read and review their book. Sometimes I read the book, and write up a full review, only to email it to the author for them to use as they see fit, even though I do not publish the review on this blog. Occasionally however, I am sucked in either by the language, or by the first few pages, leading to a thoroughly pleasant reading experience. This is what occurred as I started to read Grace Mirchandani’s "middle grade" novel, Mitzi Clark & the Keepers of SHUT.
I must start by stating that I would have LOVED this book if I had discovered it around age 10-13. The language in books aimed at a younger audience (10-13) is often stilted, basic, or just plain turgid. This is not the case with Mirchandani’s work. Like the best Encyclopedia Brown stories, or the great Nancy Drew mysteries (both of which I adored as a kid), this story draws you in quickly. Before I knew it, I had devoured ten chapters and found myself fully entrenched in the world Mirchandani created.
Mirchandani does not “write down” to her audience. She sets the stage and the players with ease. The details she provides add to the characterization and setting, without slowing the narrative. We are introduced to Mitzi Clark, our protagonist, her family and friends. Odd occurrences and small details in what should be a normal day stir up Mitzi’s curiosity. She discovers a buried item on her parent’s property, which leads her to recruit her friends to what Mitzi thinks will be a fun scavenger hunt, something to liven up the boredom of the summer day. What they find only increases the mystery, and leads to a very satisfying story.
As usual, I do not like to give away plot details from the fiction I read. Those are better left for the reader to discover. I will say that Mirchandani writes clear, descriptive prose and dialogue. The kids talk like kids, and the parents talk like parents. This is harder to accomplish than it may seem. Like the best stories, The Keepers of Shut keeps the reader engaged, invested, and turning the pages. This is the first of a series of "middle grade" novels involving Mitzi Clark and her friends. The second volume, Mitzi Clark & The Covenant Cube, continues the tale.
I highly recommend this novel to all young readers, or anyone who wishes to read a story to a young person. It is not a story heavy with terror or grief, although there are tense and suspenseful parts, and the protagonists do face dangers. Grace Mirchandani has a great facility with storytelling, and I am sure she had as much fun writing this book as I had reading it. I hope for great success for this series. It deserves a wide readership.
(This book can be purchased here: https://www.amazon.com/Mitzi-Clark-Keepers-Grace-Mirchandani/dp/B09M2XQC2N )