There is nothing more that sixteen-year-old Banesville High School junior, Hildy Biddle, wants, than to be a serious, hard-hitting journalist. Someone who breaks the big news before anyone else. Interviews countless people on a quest for an unsuspected scoop. But, as much as Hildy loves her hometown of Banesville, New York, the little apple harvesting town can't exactly be called a hotspot for news. In fact, some of the biggest stories have involved the Apple Blossom Queen, farmer's market scandals, and hotheaded city officials. That is, until the story of a lifetime drops right into Hildy's lap.
For decades people have embellished and spread rumors about a ghost that supposedly resides in the old Ludlow house. A ghost who is evil, has murdered people in the past, and is determined to kill again. Many in Banesville have believed these stories; Hildy has always written them off as rumors. But when controversy revolving around the old Ludlow house, and a ghost begin to resurface, Hildy knows that she has to be on the case. As the top reporter at her high school's newspaper, Hildy is aware that the responsibility of writing and publishing the facts for readers is up to her; therefore, she's determined to solve the mystery, and put it in writing for the world - or, at least all of Banesville - to see. But when you're sixteen-years-old, not everyone is interested in taking you, or your quest for journalistic integrity, seriously; especially when you're up against a local newspaper like The Bee. Anyone with a brain knows that The Bee, along with its publisher and editor, Pen Piedmont, is a farce. The stories are fabricated, blown out of proportion, and more often than not, completely inaccurate. Unfortunately, much of Banesville relies on this fodder for their information. When Piedmont begins publishing stories featuring eerie headlines, spooky happenings, and sightings of ghosts and apparitions, Banesville is in an uproar. Suddenly the quaint little town is flooded with tour buses, creepy characters, and death. Hildy knows that it's up to her to report the truth, but with no one talking, doing that may just be a problem. Unless she can find the words she needs to uncover the truth, and save Banesville.
I have never read anything by Joan Bauer before; but, I will confess, I devoured PEELED in just a few hours, and couldn't have loved it more. Hildy Biddle is a girl after my own heart. Her inquisitive nature, quick wit, sharp tongue, and ability to get people to spill their guts is humorous and fun; while her determination to save her fellow community members is admirable. The commitment and passion Hildy displays towards Banesville is so refreshing and enjoyable; while the descriptions of an apple harvesting community couldn't be more quaint. Bauer's characters are off the wall, intriguing, unique, humorous, and, to put it bluntly, tons of fun. Each community member possesses their own outlandish personality - from the innocent Elizabeth, to the senior citizens who make up the group the Elders Against Evil. Every word Bauer has written in PEELED is a gem in and of itself; and, as a Psychology student, I really enjoyed, and appreciated, Bauer's inclusion of propaganda and mass hysteria; two topics you so rarely see covered in books - especially teen fiction. Bauer has won a fan for life via PEELED, and I can honestly say that I will certainly be seeking out more from her in the future. Crisp and juicy!