Reviews for Second Fiddle

Booklist Reviews 2011 April #2
The fall of the Soviet Communist regime and the nomadic lives of soldiers' children are uncommon subjects for youth books, and Parry draws on her own experience to craft an engaging story that incorporates those elements. In 1990 Berlin, eighth-grade best friends Jody, Giselle, and Vivian are looking forward to their string trio's competition in Paris. Walking home after their teacher cancels the trip, the girls witness Soviet officers dumping a beaten soldier into a river. After saving his life, the girls concoct a scheme that will help the soldier while getting them to Paris, but when their plan goes seriously awry, they have to use all of their skills to get home. The girls share a believable blend of naïveté and worldly experience, and each emerges as a distinct personality. Narrated by shy Jody, the exciting adventure gallops along, and readers will happily overlook some plot conveniences for the suspense and well-drawn settings. Soviet spies, spunky friends, and music combine in an enjoyable choice for middle-graders, who will absorb a lot of history along the way. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Fall
Giselle, Vivian, and narrator Jody, eighth-grade students at an American army-base school in 1990 Berlin, find themselves caught in international intrigue while making a sub rosa visit to Paris for a chamber music competition. There are some exciting moments, but the plot is unconvincing at several turns, and the amalgam of school-and-friends story and outwitting-the-KGB thriller doesn't really work. Copyright 2011 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 January #2

Post–Cold War thriller meets teen-friendship story with uneven results. Eighth-grade BFFs Jody, Giselle and Vivian are facing their last few days together in Germany, some months after the Berlin Wall has been dismantled. Their fathers are being sent to different military assignments, and they will be separated. A trip to Paris for a music competition seems like the perfect finish to their time together, but at the last moment their music teacher backs out, jeopardizing the trip. The girls witness a brutal attack on a Soviet soldier and save his life; he then disguises himself as their chaperone to escape Germany and, possibly, the KGB. Fending for themselves in Paris, the girls, initially naive, intrepidly discover their inner resources. Military children everywhere will recognize the wrenching loss their coming separation will cause, but the only mildly suspenseful spy-novel action ultimately minimizes that issue, leaving an entertaining but never fully engaging coming-of-age tale in a well-realized setting. While fast paced and featuring perfectly fine character development, this effort, hampered by its thriller ambitions, fails to reach the lofty standard Parry set in her luminous debut, Heart of a Shepherd (2009). (Historical thriller. 10-14)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 January #2

Set in 1990, just after the Berlin Wall has fallen, Parry's insightful coming-of-age novel follows the tumultuous journey of three eighth-grade friends who live on an army base in Berlin. Jody, a violinist and classical composer, is dreading leaving her two best friends when her father retires from the army, and she will again be forced to uproot her life to move to Texas. Along with commanding Giselle and brainy Vivian, Jody plans to enter a solo and ensemble contest in Paris as a string trio; their planned performance is thwarted when their teacher falls ill, but when they witness the attempted murder of Arvo, a Soviet soldier and translator, they rescue him and plot to secret him to Paris. The trip doesn't go as planned, and the friends wind up on a wild goose chase with international ramifications. The action may take place in the '90s, but this reads like first-class historical fiction; Parry (Heart of a Shepherd) vividly conjures the political tensions of the period, the challenges of life as an army brat, and the redemptive power of music. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 March

Gr 5-8--Growing up in military families in the 1990s has its unique challenges and expectations for Jody, Giselle, and Vivian. These girls must deal with living out of the country, moving frequently, changing schools, and forging new peer relationships. At the same time, high-ranking parent figures provide a level of pressure to perform well and succeed. Based in Germany during the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reuniting of the East and West, the girls become best friends through their classical strings music lessons with maestro. After a much-anticipated music competition in Paris, the girls' families will leave for new assignments. The week before the trip, Herr Müller becomes ill and cannot attend, leaving the girls disappointed yet determined to go. Simultaneously their discovery and secret rescue of a Russian soldier beaten and left for dead has the girls devising a plan to smuggle him to Paris on their unsupervised weekend trip. Suspense, intrigue, and a series of fortuitous circumstances conveniently blend to bring amateurish espionage and adventure to the girls' escapades. Working around their gullibility and innocence, these eighth graders attempt to solve numerous problems from the theft of their passports and money, to working for their meals and way home, to interfering in a possible international incident. Parry introduces some colorful, artsy characters as second fiddles to her three main protagonists led by Jody's first-person narrative. Fast paced and appealing, with a tidy conclusion.--Rita Soltan, Youth Services Consultant, West Bloomfield, MI

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