Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham
Scarlett has just her sister Reem now that her parents are dead. Reem is hard at work as a doctor and Scarlett has her detective work to keep her busy after finishing high school early. When a young girl finds her card and calls her up for some detective work, Scarlett could never have guessed that her case would send her looking for answers in her own past. She also had no idea just how dangerous things were about to get. It’s a good thing that Scarlett is tough as nails and well-trained in martial arts because she can’t just rely on her brains to get her through this one. She’ll need all of her strength and physical power. And despite her fierce independent streak, she’ll need all the help her friends and family can offer. Scarlett Undercover is fast paced and engaging, combining plenty of action with a touch of ancient powerful mythology.
Great for: There are a lot of reasons why this book is special, starting with the fact that this is no damsel in distress. Scarlett can handle herself even if her judgment is questionable at times. Her toughness is more than just mental and it’s great for teens to see that girls can be strong and powerful. Many teens will also see themselves in Scarlett’s tricky relationship with religion. She struggles to define her own relationship with Islam while honoring her more devout sister’s (and also her mother’s) beliefs.
Wish: In School Library Journal’s review of Scarlett Undercover they compare her to Veronica Mars. She reminds me a bit of Buffy (of vampire slaying fame). Either way, I bet that Scarlett would make an amazing TV show. Someone needs to get working on that.
Age Recommendation: Grades 8+. There’s quite a bit of violence in this and there are also a lot of characters to keep straight. Add in the ancient myths that fuel the mystery and you have a fairly high level of complexity that might be hard for some readers to follow. Best to save this for readers who are comfortable with the blood and guts and are advanced enough to be able to handle the reading comprehension.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – A homeless person is peeing on a dumpster. A teen likes someone else and talks about how everything goes “wobbly from my belly button down”. A boy’s hand accidentally grazes a girl’s inner thigh. As a detective Scarlett sometimes figures out who was cheating on whom. A man’s jeans are described as not keeping any secrets. A girl is described as behaving like a duck in heat. A stained glass window shows Eve naked except some conveniently arranged hair. Scarlett is harassed on the street by boys making kissing noises and rude suggestions. A couple embraces and kisses. A girl is pregnant (she is described by the author as a girl). A couple is in love. A man tells a teen that he’s missed every “luscious” bit of her.
Profanity – “hell,” a girl uses “eff” in place of the “F word”, “piss”, “damned”, “shit”, “ass”, “helluva” “dick”, someone uses the middle finger, “Shite”, “fekkin’ “and “fek”, “bloody”, “bitch”, “crap”, “son of a bitch”, “asshole”, “damnedest”, “goddamned”,
Death, Violence and Gore – A girl says she thinks her brother killed someone. A kid committed suicide by jumping off a bridge. A boy threatened to kill people. Someone is punched in the face, drawing blood. A girl’s mother was “swallowed” by cancer. A boy has scabs on his wrist. A girl’s father was murdered. There was a “Bus Stop Killer” who grabbed victims. Someone carries a blackjack as a weapon. Someone is knocked down when a door is forcibly opened. A woman works as a doctor. She sees gunshot wounds, overdoses and heart attacks. Women fight. Death threats are issued. A woman is knocked down while running. Another pair of people fight. During the course of the fight, a blackjack is used, punches and kicks are thrown, blood is drawn and someone is nearly strangled. Someone is killed with a poison dart. Someone else narrowly escapes being killed with a poison dart. Someone is bruised badly and banged up trying to escape. A dog is brutalized, gashed, cut, limbs broken, soaked in blood. Another person is hit with a poison dart. Several dogs have their throats slit, their bodies are left in a pile. A teen is told she can watch her friends die. Someone is slapped. There is more fighting, people’s heads are bashed (likely a broken nose). People are kicked. Another person is killed with a poison dart. People are threatened with guns. A person threatens to slit someone’s belly and leave that person to die in a pile of intestines. Someone is stabbed in the back and coughs up blood.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – A teen smokes weed. People smoke cigarettes. A teen lights a cigarette for an adult. This does mean taking a drag on the cigarette. A person appears to be a junkie.
Frightening or Intense Things – People are kidnapped, tied up and held captive. A building is wired with explosives. A girl has wet herself likely in fear.