‘The Westing Game’ by Ellen Raskin
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin is one of those books I can’t believe I escaped middle school without reading. Not only is it something of a contemporary classic of children’s literature, it’s also just the sort of thing I would have loved as an eleven-year-old (or so): a twisty mystery with a precocious girl and a possible murder at the heart of it. I was all about those sort of books and, accordingly, devoured every single Zilpha Keatley Snyder book at my school’s library.
But for some reason The Westing Game remained unread. I honestly have no idea why since it turned out to be a very enjoyable read. The Westing Game tells the story of multimillionaire Sam Westing. Upon his (apparent) death, his sixteen designated heirs gather in his spooky old mansion to play “The Westing Game,” which will give each of them a chance to walk away with all his riches.
It’s a fun book, although, much as when I re-read The Egypt Game, I was quite surprised at how seriously the book treated certain social issues—and how topical such things still are today. Although published in 1978, The Westing Game openly approaches today’s hot-button issues including racial prejudice, bullying, and even the immigrant experience. It’s an amazingly on-point book that squeezes a lot into a little murder mystery for children.
And what a mysterious mystery! Indeed, there were almost too many twists, red herrings, and contrivances. By the end of it, you find yourself pretty sure about what happened, but also still scratching your head. And the narration constantly switching between characters in the sprawling cast also didn’t help matters. All the same, I’d still recommend it to bookish little middle schoolers such as I once was.
While I was reading The Westing Game, I was 100% sure that my friend Maddie had recommended it to me one day in middle school. I could even picture the bustle of the hallway and the awful linoleum tile floor as she gave me the recommendation. As I read, I was so pleased to take her up on the suggestion some 18 years later and made a note to thank her properly.
But, in writing this post, I suddenly realized she was actually talking about The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg, which I still haven’t read. Sorry, Maddie. That one still doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, but here’s hoping it doesn’t take me another 18 years to get to it.