Goodreads: A Perfect Mistake
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Publisher for review
Publication Date: July 12, 2022
Max wishes he could go back in time to before he was diagnosed with ADHD, before he grew to be the tallest kid in his class, and before he and his best friends went into the woods in the middle of the night. Max doesn’t remember what happened after he left his friends Will and Joey and the older kids who took them there. He’s not sure if he wants to remember. Knowing isn’t going to make Joey talk to him again, or bring Will out of his coma.
When the local authorities run out of leads, Max realizes that without his help, they may never know what really happened to Will. Charged by the idea that he may be the key to uncovering the truth, Max pairs up with classmate and aspiring journalist Sam to investigate what really happened that night. But not everyone in the community wants that night to be remembered.
A Perfect Mistake is a moving and evocative middle grade mystery about a boy who cannot remember what happened the night he and his friends went to the abandoned roundhouse in the woods — and one of them ended up in the hospital in a coma. Readers will be glued to their seats, both because they want to find out what really happened and because Max is an engaging protagonist it’s hard not to root for.
Max and his family are the stars of the book, and I love that he has two parents active in his life AND an uncle who has come to visit for a while to help while Max adjusts to his new reality of having one best friend in the hospital and the other one apparently avoiding him. Max has enough freedom in the book to explore and sleuth, get in a bit of trouble, and try to figure things out, but he also has a wonderful support network — and he gets to learn that they’re not always perfect either.
Sam, as Max’s new friend, is a bit of miss for me. I like the idea of her; she’s confident, organized, and ambitious. She has strong morals and tries to do what’s right when the consequences of that seem unpleasant. However, she still felt under-developed to me and seemed to function mainly as a catalyst to get Max to look into what happened the night of Will’s accident.
There are also a few places in the book where, as an adult, I would say it seems the adult characters have failed to notice some obvious clues (i.e. they probably should have solved the mystery of what happened to Will a while before the children in the book did), but this is unlikely to occur to or bother the target audience. I also appreciate that this mystery is, in many ways, genuinely mysterious to the reader who will have to keep finding clues with Max and Sam to get a good idea of what is going on, and that it’s ultimately not too dark. Things go wrong, and characters make some callous choices, but it’s nothing too horrific.
Nonetheless, the book feels unique and is highly compelling. I think young readers will connect with it a lot, and I can’t wait to follow more of Conklin’s writing career from here.