Module 8: Sammy Keyes and the Showdown in Sin City


Book Summary: In this story in the series of Sammy Keyes books, Sammy runs away to Las Vegas because she believes her mother is getting married there to her boyfriend (who just happens to be Sammy’s boyfriend’s dad!). Sammy is angry and hurt because her mother hasn’t told her about the wedding, and she still hasn’t told Sammy who her father is. With the help of a friend, an Elvis impersonator, and the mother of a friend (who is having her on struggles since she is in Vegas to get her husband out of jail), Sammy tracks down her mother and, amazingly, she meets her father for the first time. He is a successful musician called Darren Cole. The book ends with a wedding, but it is Sammy’s grandmother who walks down the aisle.

APA Reference of Book: Van Draanen, W. (2013). Sammy Keyes and the showdown in Sin City. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Impressions: Overall, I found this book a little laborious to get through. Though the premise is exciting and fans of the series will be attached to the protagonist, the suspense relies too much on coincidence to resolve itself. Sammy has a few too many strokes of luck and the plot solves itself rather simply. However, the characters are engaging for young readers and many children can probably relate to Sammy’s anxiety about her broken home. This is also the book where Sammy eventually meets her father, which has been a long-running theme through the series, so there is great payoff for readers who have read all the books.

Professional Review:  Rochman, H. (2013). Sammy Keyes and the showdown in sin city. Booklist, 109(9/10), 111.

The detective work gets very personal in the sixteenth story in the popular series about smart, junior-high sleuth Samantha (“Sammy”) Keyes. Here the setting moves to Las Vegas, where Sammy tracks down her diva mother, who is secretly marrying Sammy’s boyfriend’s dad, who is also the father of Sammy’s worst enemy. Packed with angry spats and surprises, including Sammy’s discovery of her own dad, and set against the wild background of casinos, malls, hotels, and Elvis wannabes, the young teen’s angry, wry account will grab new readers as well as series fans.

Library Uses: This would be an excellent text to study with students who are learning about point of view. Sammy comes to realizations throughout the book that her grandmother is not withholding information to punish her, but to protect her; she comes to understand more about her mother; and her relationship with her arch-enemy changes through the text. Students could retell elements of the story through the perspective of different characters, inferring about their decision-making and feelings.