In 2004 television viewers were introduced to a clever, intelligent, confident, sassy, and all around AMAZING teen sleuth named Veronica Mars. The daughter of a disgraced sheriff turned PI, Veronica solves many single-episode mysteries while uncovering a larger truth—in season 1 she searches for her best friend’s killer and in season 2 she investigates a mysterious bus crash. The third season of Veronica Mars takes place during Veronica’s freshman year of college and follows two separate and non-overlapping cases. Starring Kristen Bell as Veronica, the rest of the cast is comprised of stellar character actors–many of whom remain relatively unknown. The target audience for the show is teens, but I know of just as many (if not more) adults (including Stephen King and Joss Whedon) who fell for Veronica just as quickly and impulsively as teenagers.
There are so many reasons to love this show: tight writing, a layered and unique father-daughter dynamic, as well as a legion of complex, three dimensional secondary characters. Fans of the show were devastated when it was cancelled in 2007 and never stopped clamoring for more Veronica. Luckily, our cries were heard…
In 2014, seven years after the last episode aired, Veronica Mars is back—and this time she made it to the big screen. I saw the Veronica Mars movie on March 15th (the day after it opened). I won’t mention any details; I don’t want to give anything away in case you end up loving the series and find yourself racing to the theater (or the comfort of your couch if you choose to stream it), but I will say I was very pleased. Loose ends were tied up, familiar faces returned, and the title character is as awesome and complicated as ever.
Are you ready to see what all the fuss is about? The OWL owns all three seasons of Veronica Mars, as well as the hilarious Party Down a show about aspiring actors/comedians/writers who work together on a Los Angeles catering crew. Also created by Rob Thomas, Party Down features assorted regulars from Veronica Mars, with Ryan Hansen and Ken Marino in starring roles. I am still amazed that Thomas followed up Veronica Mars, an hour long teen drama/mystery series, with this, equally amazing, but totally different half hour adult comedy series.
In addition to creating two critically acclaimed television series, Rob Thomas is also a writer of young adult fiction. In the novel Rats Saw God, Steve York agrees to complete a hundred-page writing assignment which helps him to sort out his relationship with his famous astronaut father and the events that changed him from a promising student to a troubled teen.
If you’re already a fan and looking for some fun YA* reads in a similar vein to Veronica Mars you could try:
The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines
In 1942 New York City, fifteen-year-old Iris grieves for her mother who committed suicide and for the loss of her life of privilege, and secretly helps her father with his detective business since he, having lost a leg at Pearl Harbor, struggles to make ends meet.
I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
As a sophomore at a secret spy school and the daughter of a former CIA operative, Cammie is sheltered from “normal teenage life” until she meets a local boy while on a class surveillance mission.
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
When her best friend, whom she secretly loves, betrays her and then dies under mysterious circumstances, high school senior Vera Dietz struggles with secrets that could help clear his name.
*As always, the term YA simply means that the target audience for publishing/marketing purposes is teenagers. If you are past the point of being a “young” adult, never fear, you can (and in this librarian’s humble opinion, should) read within this classification, otherwise you are missing out on some of the best writing and most compelling stories being published today.
For a fun and fascinating, adult nonfiction title that explores the story behind that “other” celebrated, teenage girl detective, Nancy Drew, check out Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak. As beloved by girls today as she was by their grandmothers, Nancy Drew has both inspired and reflected the changes in her readers’ lives. Here, in a narrative with all the vivid energy and page-turning pace of Nancy’s adventures, Melanie Rehak solves an enduring literary mystery: Who created Nancy Drew? And how did she go from pulp heroine to icon?
Veronica Mars is a show that uses a noir lens to chronicle the trials and tribulations of adolescence. If it is the noir style that you are drawn to (more so than stories centered around young adults), here are two of my favorite neo-noir adult fiction titles:
Beat the Reaper: A Novel by Josh Bazell
Dr. Peter Brown is an intern at Manhattan’s worst hospital, with a talent for medicine, a shift from hell, and a past he’d prefer to keep hidden. Whether it’s a blocked circumflex artery or a plan to land a massive malpractice suit, he knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.
Now, with the mob, the government, and death itself descending on the hospital, Peter has to buy time and do whatever it takes to keep his patients, himself, and his last shot at redemption alive. To get through the next eight hours-and somehow beat the reaper.
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
The year is 1954. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule, have come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Multiple murderess Rachel Solando is loose somewhere on this remote and barren island, despite having been kept in a locked cell under constant surveillance. As a killer hurricane relentlessly bears down on them, a strange case takes on even darker, more sinister shades—with hints of radical experimentation, horrifying surgeries, and lethal countermoves made in the cause of a covert shadow war. No one is going to escape Shutter Island unscathed, because nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is what it seems.
~ Patricia is a part-time librarian at the OWL and has already started wishing & hoping for more Veronica Mars—whether on the big screen, the small screen, or in novel form.