Sunday, January 23, 2022

REVIEW: The Mysterious Matter of I.M. Fine (book) by Diane Stanley

The Mysterious Matter of I.M. Fine is a Middle Grade mystery/fantasy. I checked my copy out from the library.


Franny's family moves a lot, so she's constantly the new kid at school. Her sister has a gift for zeroing in on the latest fads at their new schools and using those to seamlessly fit in, but Franny just has her love of reading.

Franny's newest school doesn't initially seem to be any different from her previous ones, but then she starts to notice odd things happening to a lot of the students. For instance, all of a sudden everyone is into jelly worms. A while after that, kids start spontaneously acting like snakes. Then there's an epidemic of intense headaches. It's bizarre and difficult to believe, but the only connection Franny can find between these incidents is that they're always similar to something in the newest Chillers book releases by I.M. Fine. With the help of her new friend, Beamer, she attempts to figure out what's going on and put a stop to it before someone gets seriously hurt.

This was okay. The writing was very light and conversational - nice, easy reading. As I've noticed occasionally happens in Middle Grade books, the author slipped in lots of mentions of other books (David Copperfield, Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, etc.), probably in the hope of encouraging young readers to try them. And I'm guessing I.M. Fine's Chillers were at least somewhat based on R.L. Stein's Goosebumps books. The one mention that made me snort a bit: Stephen King's Misery. Granted, the focus was more on the movie than on the book, and I know I read King at a way younger age than Adult Me would be comfortable with, but still.

It was an interesting enough story, although a bit dated: I don't think of 2001 as being a long time ago, but the mentions of VCRs and pay phones and utter lack of cellphones reminded me that, yes, it was a while ago, especially from a young reader's perspective. I also found myself frequently questioning how these two kids were able to go so many places on their own. Beamer's grandparents thought they were spending the day at the pool, so I doubt they'd have had much cash, and yet they were able to take multiple bus trips and buy themselves a couple meals.

Franny and Beamer were lucky that everything they needed in order to solve the mystery was only a short bus trip away, especially considering the direction their investigation took. I thought the ending was a bit of a letdown, but I'm also not this book's intended audience. It did wrap everything up in a satisfying way, and despite the "kids' horror" cover art, it never got too intense or particularly scary.

1 comment:

  1. Probably purchased for the collection (by Trudy, because this was before my time) because it was on the Texas Bluebonnet Award reading list for 2002-2003.