The Postcard by Tony Abbott is more of a middle-grade novel than Young Adult. I learned of this book after reading a terrific review on Lesa's Critiques blog. It won the Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery.
Thirteen-year old Jason finds himself spending time with his father in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida cleaning out his grandmother's house after she passes away. All he wants to do is get back home (I think it's New York, or some place more north--I can't find it in the book now) to hang out with his best friend Hector. His stay in Florida takes a turn for the worse when his father falls off a ladder cleaning the gutters and ends up spending some time in the hospital. Jason finds himself alone and stumbles onto a family mystery after a strange anonymous phone call asking him if he's smart and to look in the desk. He starts investigating and finds an old postcard. The postcard is an old hotel in the area once owned by Jason's great-grandfather. He discovers a pin-hole in a window in the hotel on the postcard and feels compelled to check it out after also discovering an old magazine article featuring the hotel in a fictional story. This starts Jason's journey throughout St. Petersburg and his family history.
By the end of the story Jason learns who his real grandfather is, what his grandmother's life was like when she was younger, and what a tyrant his great-grandfather was. Along the way, Jason also befriends a girl in the neighborhood named Dia who eventually helps him solve the mystery.
I really love the premise of this book. I think family histories can be very interesting and I love looking at old archival materials like postcards and whatnot. A trail of clues on old postcards is a fun idea! I also liked the realistic nature of Jason's family. His parents are on the verge of splitting up, he feels torn between them. His father is a borderline alcoholic. There are real family issues discussed that I think many kids reading this book can identify with.
However, this book was quite long for what it was. I felt bored about halfway through. And though it overall was an interesting concept, I wonder if I was bored if a middle-schooler reading this might be bored too. I'm not sure. Funny, I think I'm realizing something about my reading habits. This particular book had a story within a story concept to it. I find that whenever I read books like that (ie: Atwood's Blind Assassin), I lose interest in the story within a story and just want to read the "real" story. I rate this book lower simply because of its length and sort of wished perhaps there was a tad bit more adventure/suspense to the story. It unfolded very methodically. Just wasn't zippy enough for me after reading The Red Blazer Girls and the 39 Clues books.