TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
Fans of "Last Shot" and "Vanishing Act," author Feinstein's previous sports-related mysteries, will be glad to see teen reporters Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson back in action. As "Cover-Up" starts, Stevie and Susan Carol have a weekly show on the all-sports USTV network, and they're all set to head to Indianapolis for the Super Bowl matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and California Dreams. But on the eve of the trip, USTV management abruptly fires Stevie, replacing him with a boy band singer who looks great on camera but knows nothing about football. Stevie still manages to get to the Super Bowl, again reporting for his mentor Bobby Kelleher's Washington Herald, but now there's some tension between him and Susan Carol.
All the personal drama takes a back seat when Stevie and Susan Carol stumble upon (yet another!) conspiracy at a huge sporting event. This time around, it's a scandal involving the entire Dreams' offensive line testing positive for the steroid HGH, human growth hormone. The Dreams' obnoxious owner, Little Donny Meeker, had apparently worked with the team's doctor and possibly members of the media to hide the positive test results. When Stevie and Susan Carol learn the truth — and get their hands on the documents themselves — they're faced with a difficult decision. Do they expose the truth and possibly ruin the Super Bowl? And if they act, how will it affect Dreams' quarterback Eddie Brennan, who has been so kind and supportive to them?
This particular Feinstein mystery is much lighter on sports action than his previous novels, so know that going in. Also, you'll need to suspend your disbelief to fully appreciate the story, as it's beginning to seem a bit unlikely that two teen reporters keep uncovering enormous scandals. Having said that, I genuinely enjoyed this book. Feinstein nicely maintains the tension and suspense throughout the story while providing a real backstage view into an event many of us watch on television every year. The ethical dilemma faced by Stevie, Susan Carol, and Eddie Brennan is given ample discussion, but not in a heavy-handed way. Plus, it's great to see two kids use their brains and courage to stand up for what they think is right. Throw in a budding romance between our two young reporters, and you have all the makings of a great story.
I'd definitely recommend this book to middle school readers, say in about grade six and up. This is a fairly "clean" book, one that should interest both boys and girls. If you like sports or mystery/suspense stories, you should love "Cover-Up."