Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Solve the mystery, win a free book

I am a contributor to a terrific new anthology, You Don’t Have A Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens with a Teacher's Guide (Arte Público Press), which was published a month ago and has been receiving stellar reviews.  From Booklist, the anthology won a starred review.  Kirkus called it “a consistent, well-crafted collection.”  The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books said, “The mix of realistic and fantastic mysteries guarantees broad reader appeal for this impressive collection.”  Much credit should go to our editor, Sarah Cortez, whose careful guidance throughout the project was exemplary.

This anthology is chockfull of writers I admire: Mario Acevedo, Carlos Hernandez, Diana Lopez, René Saldana, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Richie Narvaez, Gwendolyn Zepeda, Ray Villareal, Manuel Ramos, Daniel Olivas, and many others.  I am proud to be included among them, writing mysteries and encouraging teens (and all of us, for that matter) to read.

So herewith is a challenge, to all intrepid readers in cyberspace and beyond: whoever can solve the mystery of my story “Nuts” in this collection, and email me what really happened to whom and why, will win a book signed by me and mailed to you.  The first three individuals (teens, I hope) to send the correct answer to my email inbox at SergioTroncoso(AT)gmail(DOT)com will win a free book.  Will you have a clue?  Well, that is the question.  Read the following paragraphs carefully.

I wrote “Nuts” because I wanted to write a story to make the reader think about what really happened in the story and to prompt the reader to figure out the puzzle.  I believe in ‘close reading,’ that is, reading so that every word is weighed carefully for its meaning, so that every detail is understood for why it is there.  “Nuts” is written for that careful reader who will not miss any detail, and whether a detail matches other details in the story.  I also want the reader to ponder what is in between the lines of the story, to understand the relationships between the characters, and to appreciate what is left unsaid between them.  I have two teenage sons, and one of them is allergic to tree nuts, so I also wanted to write about that hidden, quotidian danger he faces.  By the way, my sixteen-year-old figured out what really happened in “Nuts” on his first reading!

So about those clues.  First, the cookie clue.  Think about the cookies, and every instance in which the cookies are mentioned.  Compare these instances.  What do they tell you about what really happened?

Second, have you seen the movie “Juno”?  You better run to Netflix, if you haven’t.  Remember the relationships between Juno, Bleeker, and Katrina de Voort?  How is a scene in that movie and what is meant (but not said) about these relationships important to understanding what Zendon is feeling about his friend Ethan?  Are there any other clues to indicate what Zendon is thinking, but not saying, to his friend Ethan?

Third, sometimes we hear names incorrectly, especially during an emotionally charged moment.  Does 'Sookie' sound like 'Soupy'?

Fourth, isn't that a strange name for the person who writes Ethan that email at the end, ‘Doable HePrey’?  Did you know that ‘Sergio Troncoso’ can also be ‘Cooing Roosters’ or ‘Scrooges Riot On’?  I love anagrams, don’t you?

Finally, once you decipher the meaning behind the above clues, what can you tell me about Ethan’s moment of decision in the email, the response he almost sends, versus the response he actually sends at the end?  That is the coup de grâce to understanding the meaning of this mystery.

For the prize, I will give the three winners a signed copy of You Don’t Have A Clue.  You can give your friends your unsigned copy, challenge them to solve and understand the mystery, and you can keep your prize book.  We need to encourage everybody to read.  I hope if I see you at a reading you will say hello, and tell me how you solved the mystery and how you can’t wait to get into another story to solve the puzzle, to explore a new world, to gain a new perspective, to relish that shiver scurrying up your spine when you say to yourself, 'Aha!  Now I know!'