Book Review

Book Review: Jolly Foul Play

Jolly Foul Play
By Robin Stevens

My Edition:
Paperback, 347 pages
2018, Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781481489102

Daisy and Hazel are back at Deepdean for another term after their adventures on the Orient Express. But the year is shaping up to be unpleasant under the regime of the new Head Girl, Elizabeth Hurst, and her five Prefects. When Elizabeth is found dead after a fireworks display, Daisy and Hazel team up once more to solve the case. School staff believes Elizabeth’s death to be an accident, but the Wells & Wong Detective Society believe otherwise – plenty of girls had a motive to murder Elizabeth, and the girls mean to find out who did it.

The more of these books I read, the more I love this series. I know they’re hitting US shelves a few years behind the UK releases, but I hope this series continues for a long time!

Once again, Stevens impressed me with her blend of murder, mayhem, mystery and mawesome female characters. I love how Daisy and Hazel’s friendship has continued to grow and change over this series. As the girls get older, they don’t always see eye to eye and they have to learn how to maintain their friendship while being true to themselves and their changing interests.

I’m partial to Hazel because we’re reading the series through her documentation of the mysteries the duo is solving. Yet, Hazel has a good understanding of Daisy. Even when the two are fighting, Hazel makes an effort to stop and see things from Daisy’s point of view. I think that’s an important message for younger (and older) readers – if you want to keep a strong friendship, you need to take the time to understand and work with your differences.

Plus, there’s murder! Ya’ll know I like my middle-grade dark. I like that Stevens doesn’t shy away from the dirty details in her cases. Now, these books aren’t graphic by any means, but these are teenage girls solving murder cases and confronting killers. There’s always a sense of adventure and danger, but without it being brutal or gruesome. I also love how seriously the girls, especially Hazel, take the cases. For Hazel, solving mysteries isn’t a lark and often they weigh on her.

“…knowing who the murderer is does not make them a different person, but what they have done somehow overlays who they are and turns them quite horrible.”

Now, on to the plot! This book has mega Mean Girls vibes – I’m not sure if it was intentional but I’m here for it! Elizabeth and her nasty crew are ruling the school, making life miserable for all the younger girls, while the adults remain oblivious. The negative attitudes of Elizabeth and “The Five” start to wear on the girls, making everyone negative and paranoid. There’s even a Scandal Book full of rumors and some nasty truths about the girls in the school. Much like in Mean Girls, we learn that The Five aren’t as happy under Elizabeth’s rule as they seem. They become the main suspects in her murder and I loved watching The Five develop through the eyes of Daisy and Hazel as they uncover their secrets.

This book deals a lot with the toxicity of rumors and secrets. It also delves deeper into the friendship of Daisy and Hazel, as well as their friendship with their dorm mates, Beanie, Kitty and Lavinia. I enjoyed seeing the other girls become stronger characters and get involved in the cases. Beanie is super adorable and definitely my favorite of the three. She has some great moments in this book and she’s definitely the embodiment of a caring spirit.

Stevens addresses the difference between male and female friends and the importance of understanding that your friendship with one person can be different than with another, yet neither needs to be lessened by the other. Hmm, there’s probably an easier way of saying that, but I can’t think of what it is right now. So here’s this quote from Hazel:

“…I really saw how I could be both Daisy’s friend and Alexander’s. I could be honest with both, but I did not have to give them the same part of myself.”

There’s also a bit of lesbian rep in this book, which was a pleasant surprise. It’s one of the many sub-plots and I was glad to see it included. I’m curious to see if we’ll get more rep in the future.

So far, I’ve loved every book in this series and I don’t expect that to change. It’s definitely one I’m going to want to re-read. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but there’s also a vocabulary list in the back of each book (courtesy of Daisy), which I appreciate as someone who is from the states and also modern times. I like to see vocabulary lists in middle-grade books even if I don’t use them – it’s important to encourage younger readers to look up words they don’t know and expand their terminology!

I highly recommend this series if:

+ You love middle-grade mysteries and want a new Sherlockian duo
+ You’re looking for a series where you can watch the characters grow
+ You enjoy books that explore topics like changing friendships, family drama, and loyalties, with a healthy dose of murder thrown in

ICYMI:

Book Review: Murder is Bad Manners
Book Review: Poison is Not Polite
Book Review: First Class Murder

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