The Secret of Grim Hill by Linda DeMeulemeester: This is the first book in the series, and it introduces Cat Peters, who has just moved with her mother and little sister Sookie to Grim Hill, where she is utterly miserable at Darkmont High. Cat longs to attend expensive Grimoire, where her mother works, but money is too tight. Cat comes across a flier for a soccer game that will result in the awarding of a scholarship to Grimoire, and she focuses all her energy on making the team, then on winning the game. Oddly, her previously harsh teachers ignore her failure to hand in homework, instead cheering her on. Her usually responsible mother splurges on new soccer cleats for Cat and seems obsessed with Cat's winning the game. Cat drags Sookie to her practices, and on the sidelines, Sookie meets a strange Goth girl, Cindy, who warns her that the game is not all it seems. Cat knows that something is a little off, but she so desperately wants the Grimoire scholarship that she tries to ignore her misgivings. She and her friend (sort of) Jasper research the past soccer game mentioned by Cindy and discover that many of the participants went missing. I liked Cat and the supporting characters, and the Celtic mythology was really well-incorporated. The book is a bit on the short side, so the other girls on the team weren't developed as well as I would have liked, but it was a quick, enjoyable read.
In Cat's second adventure, Grim Hill: The Secret Deepens unseasonable cold takes hold of Grim Hill as Sookie becomes obsessed with magic tricks. Cat is embroiled in a gender war with the boys, who claim that boys are inherently better at soccer. With Sookie's magician's assistants all suffering from an odd flu, Cat and Jasper try to find a connection to the fairies (they thought) were locked up tight in Grim Hill. I like that Cat is an excellent soccer player--I'm trying to think of another tween series (at least fantasy) with a girl who is good at sports, and I'm coming up empty. I liked her fevered defense of the girls' athleticism, too. She's a strong, spirited heroine who might make a good addition to a Harry Potter-reading girls' library. She's a good leader, but she works well with Jasper and other characters.
In Grim Hill: The Forgotten Secret, Valentine's Day is coming, and Cat ends up planning a dance. She finds decorations at school from the dance 70 years before, of which memories (and newspaper accounts) are fuzzy. What happened at that dance? And can it have anything to do with Cat's new friend, Lea, and her gardening aunt? Sookie befriends Lea's aunt and starts a garden of her own, even juicing up the "love charms" Cat makes for her boy-crazy friends, causing the charmed boys to act like zombies. Cat and Jasper research Celtic myths once again to find out what's going on in town and how to stop it. The cooperation with their elderly neighbors (who know more than the average Grim Hill adult about the odd fairy happenings) is especially touching in this installment.
The series is well-written, the Celtic fairy lore well-researched and well-incorporated, and Cat is an excellent heroine. My only complaint is that I wish the books were longer, which is a good sign! DeMeulemeester has created a fascinating world populated with believable characters and a strong dose of fantasy. What fun!