The Westing Game (and Books We Loved as Kids)

When I was in Elementary school, there was a program called R.I.F. which involved our teachers giving out free books to us students. Since I loved to read, “R.I.F. day” was an exciting time for me. Our teacher would put the books on a table and would always have some system to determine the order in which we chose our books. Since we usually didn’t know anything about the particular books being offered, often the books that were biggest and/or had the flashiest covers were picked first. Or, if we were really lucky there would be a Choose Your Own Adventure book, which was cool because your path through the plot of the book was determined by the choices you made. These books were usually long gone by the time I got to choose my book, as I never got to pick first. Lucky for me “never choose a book by it’s cover”

turned out to be true, and one day I chose The Westing Game as my R.I.F. book.

westinggamecover.jpg

As I have since discovered, The Westing Game won the Newberry Medal in 1979. I’ll allow wikipedia to describe the plot:

The story unfolds as a whodunit, and is told in third-person omniscence. There is not one main character in the story, but it focuses in some aspects on Tabitha-Ruth “Turtle” Wexler. Eccentric millionaire and self-proclaimed patriot Samuel Westing has died, and the 16 heirs (all tenants or associates of Sunset Towers, an apartment building adjacent to Westing’s property), are called together for the reading of his will. There, it is announced that Westing was actually murdered, and the will warns that their fellow heirs may not be who they appear to be. They are paired up to search for the murderer, and each pair receives clues to find the person. The first pair to unmask the killer’s identity will receive Westing’s 200-million-dollar fortune. As the different pairs of people enter the “Westing Game,” they find clues that tell them about each others’ secrets. Turtle uses not just the obvious clues but the hidden ones to discover the true mystery behind the mystery, which she solves in an unexpected but satisfying fashion.

I loved this book for many reasons. For one, I cared for the characters, which is very important to me when I read a book or watch a movie. Who wants to read a book about a bunch of people you don’t care about? I also enjoyed the mystery aspects of the book and the challenge of trying to solve the mystery before the characters in the book.

Has anyone out there read The Westing Game? What were some of your favorite books as a child? While you think about that, I think I’m going to grab this book off the bookshelf in my old bedroom the next time I visit my parents.