I typically shy away from adult fiction murder mysteries. The daily news is depressing enough. But I was faced with reading a new murder mystery for middle grade. Yes you read that right.

Murder and middle grade.

WHAT WE SAW turns out to be a riveting hard to put down story of two best friends who gather a lot of evidence while hiding out in a tree house. I read this whodunnit in one day which is not something I ever do with books.

Twelve-year-old Abbi and Skyler witness a meeting between a mystery woman and another person in a dark van. From their perch in the tree they know their summer just got a lot more exciting. Maybe they are witnessing spies or criminals on the run!

When the mystery woman turns up murdered, the girls know their clues might help police. It’s sad because Abbi and Skyler know both the victim and possibly the murderer. Being detectives is scarier than ever.

Revealing secrets is sure to destroy many more lives but the danger level increases giving them no other choice. Their friendship is tested as they decide what to do.

Both girls live in single parent households with their mothers. Abby narrates the story, one filled with true to life middle grade drama. There are two nasty bullies and drug use by an older brother, keeping this one solidly in the upper middle grade category (I’d suggest the 11-13 age group).

No spoilers here and there are many I could drop. Give this one a go if you like a small town where summer turns into a thrilling, suspenseful adventure. WHAT WE SAW is what you should read. The compact page count is also a plus.

PAGE COUNT: 206 BOOK BIRTHDAY: September 6, 2022


  1. Many young readers will feel the fear of thier parents finding out you did something you shouldn’t have done. It’s usually something simple like in this story when Abby and Skyler ride their bikes to the other side of town. The plot handles it to perfection.
  2. The challenges of single parenting are brought out superbly. For Abby, who never knew her father, she hopes Mom will marry the man she is currently dating. For Skyler she is bitter toward her dad who had an affair and left. Great contrast in family situations.
  3. Students have favorite teachers as demonstrated in this school part of the plot. It turns into a huge deal when all is revealed.
  4. You may figure out the mystery quicker than the MC’s, but seeing what the girls go through from accusations to realities is a wonderful ride.
  5. A different kind of spooky read for the upcoming season of scares.


Mary Downing Hahn’s many acclaimed novels include such beloved ghost stories as Wait Till Helen Comes, Deep and Dark and Dangerous, and Took. A former librarian, she has received more than fifty child-voted state awards for her work. She lives in Columbia, Maryland, with a cat named Nixi.


Comments are welcome below and be sure to visit all the other MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE POSTS (MMGM).

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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7 Responses to WHAT WE SAW

  1. Sounds a great read, I must watch out for it. Thanks for sharing!

  2. As soon as I started reading your review, I reserved this at the libary. Thanks!

  3. You know I saw this while doing a search. It sounds like an amazing read — I loved mysteries. But you don’t see murder in MG — YA , yes! I liked your additional details about the characters, too! This will make for a great fall read and I just may try it — I don’t like over-the-top scary. Great choice today!

  4. carolbaldwin says:

    great review. Reading it one day makes me want to read it. thanks.

  5. I just put this very high up on my TBR list. I am going to have to hunt down a copy soon. Murder mysteries are my guilty pleasure. Thanks for the review.

  6. lindabrowne says:

    Yep, this one is going on my list.

  7. schmelzb says:

    I commented yesterday, but I don’t see my post. I’ll try again.
    Mary Downing Hahn is very popular mystery/thriller writer in Maryland because it is her home state and where she was a librarian. I couldn’t keep her books on my shelf when students asked for scary books. Myself, I couldn’t read TOOK at night. Lights on fir her latest thrillers, even for adults!

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