Juliet Robinson feels like the only sixth grade student at John Jay Junior High who is yet to receive a hot ticket – a card awarded for doing something judged to be cool by the anonymous ticket dispenser. Determined not to be remembered for that dubious distinction, she embarks upon a quest to discover and reveal the student (or teacher!) behind the tickets and to stop their distribution for good.

Hot Ticket is an extremely fun novel for younger readers. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that has felt so perfectly pitched towards an audience. I would have lapped this up in upper primary school – and loved every moment of it as an adult as well.

One of the things that makes Hot Ticket work so well is its great cast of characters. In Juliet, Tracy Marchini has created an entertaining, and yet realistic, protagonist. She is clumsy, overly-spontaneous and often thoughtless, but it is such fallibility that makes her so easy to identify with. She’s also creative, tenacious and quick to attempt to right any wrongs she may become aware of, and I think it would be difficult for any reader not to like her. She has an incredible energy that’s very well portrayed.

The supporting characters are similarly well drawn. Lucy is the perfect foil to Juliet’s bold nature, providing a little calm where needed. She is definitely given a personality of her own, however and, although she isn’t as large on the page as her best friend is, she’s very likeable nonetheless. Crammit is great as the former victim of Juliet’s loud mouth turned friend (and possibly more). Any hint of romance is perfectly played out for the young audience of the book, which I definitely appreciated. I’m not a fan of junior fiction that shows kids acting like teenagers or adults when it comes to romance.

The best thing about Hot Ticket, however, is the plot. It’s a mystery concerned with exactly the kinds of things that its audience cares about. It explores ideas of popularity and exclusion, of peer influence and self-esteem, and does it in a way that can’t help but hold the reader’s attention. There is no obvious moralising here, but there are good messages to be gleaned amongst the humour of the situations that Juliet gets herself into. Young readers will love Hot Ticket because they’ll care about its storyline and will be able to fit it into their own world. They’ll be able to understand Juliet’s frustration and anxiety because they’ll have experienced similar situations themselves.

The only negative for me was the fact that there were a few grammatical errors and typos within the text. The book wasn’t full of them, by any means, but there were enough for it to be noticeable.

Despite this, I would have no hesitation in recommending Hot Ticket to young readers. It’s wonderfully age-appropriate and just so much fun.

(I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)