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Pepper's Rules for Secret Sleuthing

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  96 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Nancy Drew meets Harriet the Spy in this action-packed and heartfelt debut middle grade following an overzealous amateur sleuth as she investigates a shocking family secret—and unravels the mystery of her developing feelings for girls.

Rule One: Your loyalty is to the case.

Amateur detective Pepper Blouse has always held true to this rule, even if it meant pushing people awa
Kindle Edition, 240 pages
Published September 29th 2020 by Simon & Schuster
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Average rating 4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  96 ratings  ·  25 reviews

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Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd)
Author pitched this as queer Nancy Drew for middle grade readers and this queer girl obsessed with Nancy Drew is d y i n g
Ms. Yingling
Aug 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ARC graciously provided by the author via Twitter contest!

Pepper and her father travel to her great-aunt Florence's house to help her Aunt Wendy settle the estate. Pepper's mother, a police detective, has passed away, and to honor her memory and feel close to her, Pepper has cultivated an interest in sleuthing, using her mother's Detective's Rulebook to guide her. Her father and aunt don't get along well, and her aunt is frazzled because of a recent divorce. Her cousin, Andrew, is not Pepper's f
Oct 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtq, own
i really liked this and loved watching pepper work through some of her grief about her mom (who died when pepper was little) as well as her sexuality. the kids at school think she’s weird/don’t like her because of her sleuthing, and the first friend she makes at her great aunt’s is a trans boy and she also ends up with more sympathy for her whiny cousin by the end of the book. lots of good friendship stuff. my only hangup is that her mom was a cop. a detective, but called a cop several times and ...more
Frances Diederich
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgtbq
Nancy Drew but make her queer!!!!!!

This book is everything I wish I had when I was in middle school.
Kristin Lambert
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A charming, twisty mystery that I think would be especially great for kids on the younger end of the middle grade spectrum. I read so much Nancy Drew from age 8 to 10, and this definitely gives me a similar vibe, mystery-wise, but with modern sensibilities and stronger characterization. The three kids at the center of this story feel very whole and real, and are all grappling with big emotions. I loved the running theme of kindness and learning how to see things from another person’s perspective ...more
Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, mystery
This is a smartly written middle-grade mystery that is perfect for wannabe-detectives. The author manages to pack in all sorts of great stuff, including dealing with loss, figuring out a sense of self, and learning to see things from other people's perspectives. The main character has a strong voice and a really determined personality and was really fun to spend a few hours with. Highly recommended for mystery fans of all ages. ...more
Neha Thakkar
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has the best earnest, eager, and hopeful main character who needs to solve the mystery. And maybe even keep her mom’s memory alive? I enjoyed this middle grade novel full of humor and heart!
Nicole Melleby
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Official blurb: McDonald has crafted a middle grade mystery for a modern audience, a debut chock full of heart that perfectly fills a much needed category for LGBTQ middle grade shelves. Pepper isn't just a queer Nancy Drew--she's a relatable and lovable character all her own. ...more
Nov 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just finished PEPPER'S RULES FOR SECRET SLEUTHING and I absolutely adored it! Reading this gave me some serious nostalgia for the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries I used to read as a kid. Except in this case, the mystery is all there with the added benefit of a modern upgrade. I especially appreciated the queer rep, which was done with so much nuance and care. Pepper is also the kind of MG main character that I love, smart, kind, inquisitive and determined. This would be a perfect read for ...more
This was uncomfortably pro-cop - not just in passing but pervasively, repeatedly, and explicitly. Other than that, I really enjoyed it and would recommend it if you are willing and able to compartmentalize, or, like, pretend the book is set in an alternate universe, cop-wise. I can see how to some extent this made artistic sense - the protagonist, Pepper, loves solving mysteries, so it's an obvious choice for her hero (her late mom) to be a professional detective. The book actually has a good op ...more
Melanie Dulaney
Pepper is as feisty as her name and her poofy, flaming red hair and she’s on the trail of a murderer, possibly someone in her own family! Her dad’s Aunt Florence has seemingly passed away from a heart attack and there is a bit of confusion about the will—who will inherit the money and the mansion? It could be her dad, his sister, or maybe even a gardener? Or are these very same people suspects in what is not a natural death? Determined to honor the memory of her mom’s outstanding performance as ...more
Victoria Stone
Nov 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As many have stated before me, this book was right up there with Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. I love the rules, I love the mystery, and when it picks up and the real suspense starts, I LOVE IT! The author, Briana McDonald, takes on very difficult topics for youth in such a beautiful way, including loss of family members, divorce, transitioning and acceptance, just to name a few. These are neither treaded on lightly nor haphazardly thrown it, these topics are part of the characters as much as they ...more
Mysteries With Nic
Dec 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-grade
I absolutely love the cover and every time I stare at it, I keep finding other small details.

With that said...I enjoyed that Andrew came around and wanted to help Pepper solve the mystery, even if he’s torn between solving the mystery or continuing to live his lavish life style.

Pepper was adorable. I never read any of the Nancy Drew novels but I imagine a young sleuth would be her. I felt sad that she’s struggling with the loss of her mom. I loved how she was different and still stuck to sleuthi
Jan 18, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: MG mystery fans looking for some diversity
Pepper's Rules for Secret Sleuthing brings some much-needed queer rep to the middle-grade mystery world. Pepper's questioning, as well as a major character who is trans, are both portrayed thoughtfully and respectfully. Unfortunately, I found the writing style a bit inconsistent, and the way an older adult with dementia was portrayed struck me as somewhat insensitive at times. I also found the plot a bit confusing, though maybe I'm just not familiar enough with the conventions of the genre. Inte ...more
Casey Jo
Nov 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: trans, queer
Yay queer MC!

I struggled to focus on reading this book, but in 2020, it's hard to fault a book for that.

Great secondary character trans rep! Yay! I appreciated his concern that his parents were a little *too* happy to have a girl. I only wish the word "brave" hadn't been on p. 222. That dang word. Even "courageous" would have been better. Why do trans people always have to be "brave"?
Bernadette McHugh
What a wonderful, energetic story! An engaging, smart LGBTQ female main character and some really well drawn supporting characters, this has a nice balance of outside mystery and internal mystery both being explored at the same time. I bought it for my 8 year old son but ended up reading it myself first!
Carly Pigg
Feb 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It’s a great book for middle grade readers, especially those who like a good mystery. I thought the addition of the LGBTQ characters was wonderful. I think it’s important representation, especially for readers the age of Pepper and Jacob who may relate to their stories.
Nov 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, red-fox-literary
Loved going on this super fun, twisty-turny adventure with super smart Pepper, the wanna-be detective, and her two new buddies. Lots of secrets to unravel, suspicious and not-so-suspicious people to figure out, and interesting things and places to explore.
Hoover Public Library Kids and Teens
Pepper wants to be a celebrated detective like her late mother, and is convinced that sleuthing runs in her blood. A giant mansion is perfect for an amateur sleuth’s investigations, especially when its owner, her Great Aunt Florence, has recently died under possibly suspicious circumstances.
Jordan Dixon
Feb 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good story, surprisingly suspensful for a kids' book. Queer characters = love. ...more
Rachel Willis
Mar 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A fun read with great characters.
Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.
hello i loved this???? what a wonderful book!
Oct 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved the character and side characters a little predictable.
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Jan 01, 2021
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Debby Bah
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Dec 02, 2020
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Oct 22, 2020
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Briana McDonald writes diverse and adventurous books for young readers. She is the author of middle grade novels Pepper’s Rules for Secret Sleuthing (Fall 2020) Finley Walsh Adventure Agency (Spring 2022), and a third untitled work (Spring 2023). Her short fiction has appeared several literary magazines. When she’s not writing, Briana works as an Academic Advisor at Columbia University in New York ...more

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