For as long as many of us can remember, mystery novels have been given the shaft by the YA market. Passed over in favor of stories featuring sparkling vampires, spies and science fiction, the mystery genre has been viewed by many as a niche. As each year passes, it wavers dangerously close to fading into the background along with other recently forgotten YA genres such as Westerns.
Though a number of recent paranormal YA have attempted to add mystery-like elements into their stories, they have usually fallen short of creating the iconic trademark that has defined the genre for so long. When asked why there isn’t any focus on mystery in the current Young Adult market, a number of book bloggers have proclaimed that the genre is simply just too difficult for the current market to produce.
When I randomly stumbled across a new YA offering from Japan while browsing the aisles of Barnes and Noble, I grew curious. Would a Japanese author be able to breathe new life into the genre? I was soon about to find out.
Set in a small European country beside the Alps during 1924, the story follows Kujo Kazuya, a Japanese teenager sent abroad by his family to study at the prestigious Saint Marguerite Academy, and his adventures with the doll-faced and inquisitive Victorique. When the young girl’s investigative nature leads her to a cruise ship matching the description of one of the school’s local horror stories, the two find themselves caught up in a life and death race against time that promises to pit their intellect against an unknown killer. Trapped at sea, the two discover a terrifying clue. This isn’t the first time this has happened.
If there was any worry that the mystery genre was too hard for the YA market, lay it aside now.
GOSICK, in a word, is stunning. More than that, it’s terrifyingly gripping.
Never failing to miss a mark, the story flows from one page to the next without pause or hesitation. Excellently written prose, unbearably suspenseful pacing, and three dimensional characters that feel real enough to touch fill the pages of this beautifully illustrated novel.
If Sherlock Holmes had a literary daughter, it would without a doubt be the doll-faced Victorique. Capturing the mood and essence of the mystery classic, GOSICK gives new life to the old archetype stories that have still continued to entertain many today while managing to weave in its own special and unique touch as well.
The decision of the author to base the story in the 1920’s after World War I was pure genius. In a book industry like we have today, where history seems all but forgotten, Sakuraba provides a refreshing breath of fresh air. Not only does it enhance the setting of the story and prove more interesting, it dramatically changes the mood of the locations and the way in which our main characters are treated.
Throughout the story I was on the edge of my seat. There wasn’t a single point during my reading where I felt safe enough to take a break. While the story starts off innocently enough, introducing each of the main characters and their school grounds, the plot soon entraps you in its spell and proves ultimately too enticing to break from. In all honesty GOSICK has proven to be one of the few books that I’ve read that can accomplish such a feat, and for that, it has gained my immense respect.
As with any mystery, the ending is perhaps the most important aspect of the book besides the story itself and I’m happy to report that not only does GOSICK have near perfect pacing, it also has a near flawless twist of an ending. Reader’s hoping to be surprised will not leave disappointed.
In conclusion, there is almost nothing negative I can say about this book other than the fact that it ends. GOSICK succeeds in doing what a number of YA books seem incapable of doing, trusting that its readers are intelligent. This belief, coupled with its flowing narrative, provides in what is likely to become a new classic for the YA Mystery genre.
Matthew Reeves is an aspiring novelist living in California. You can usually find him lost in thought on a walk or writing on Twitter as @MattReeves17.