November 2006

Who shot Casey Carmody?

By Carol Plum-Ucci
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A pistol shot, a teenage girl falling from an abandoned pier, a police interrogation, Coast Guard searches. Casey Carmody is missing. Was she shot? Is she playing a practical joke? Where is her body? Seventeen-year-old Kurt Carmody, Casey’s older brother, tells the police he heard Casey laugh after the sound of the gunshot, but testimonies differ and no one heard a splash. As Captain Lutz says, We’ve got no body, no blood, and a whole lot of people claiming to have heard a pistol shot from a gun no one claimed to fire. The teens at the scene were the Mystic Marvels, residents of Mystic Island, a small beach community on an island barely wide enough to be inhabitable. These high school students are not too bad, not too good, not too smart, not too dumb, not too rich, not too poor, just Ômarvy around,’ as Casey would say. It seems as if the group is relatively inclusive, but it becomes apparent during the interrogation that this may be a witch hunt, a group’s attempt to go after an outsider. The witchy gossip and jealousies conspire against the reputation of Stacy Kearney, the new girl at school. Her too-sure-of-herself personality is just the kind that a coven of teenagers would like to bring down. And her family connections to old money in the town don’t help. The conformist, group-minded Mystic Marvels don’t marvel at Stacy; she is someone they love to hate. And it was Stacy who brought the gun to the party on the pier. What was the sense in that? Add in the dynamics of girlfriends and boyfriends, ex-boyfriends and the vagaries of group behavior in the dark, and this pretty girl with a tenuous connection to the group is in trouble. As the morality play comes to a dismal yet realistic conclusion, Kurt becomes a narrator readers will like, a player who knows the group and ultimately rejects it. Carol Plum-Ucci’s important young adult novel about conformity to groups is a good match with her Printz Honor-winning The Body of Christopher Creed.

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