Tess, Terrorists and the Tiara by Terry Baldwin

Thirteen-year old Tess has never been able to compete with her “perfect” older sister, but now she must—if she wants to inherit her grandmother’s priceless tiara. The two girls have been invited to their grandparent’s lake house for the summer to help take care of Grandma who’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The sister who earns the most “helpful points” wins the former beauty queen’s crown.

"It’s not easy for Tess, who seems to always get things wrong despite best intentions. And who is that mysterious stranger who’s just moved next door to their grandparents’ summer cottage?
Does he know that Tess’ grandmother was once the winner of a famous patriotic beauty contest? Or that she keeps her tiara where anyone can steal it? And why doesn’t he have a face?

This story was a pretty fast read. I was a little nervous about the twist the author may take on the "terrorists" part of the story. But the combination of themes really worked out together in the end.

I have to say that I really didn't love the main character. I wanted to tell her how irresponsible she was being so many times and felt that the grandparents were not watching her close enough. It seemed that every single page the girl was making another bad decision and not thinking at all. But that's how kids are sometimes, especially when on vacation. I guess I just was scared to see this rambunctious young girl and what the terrorists would bring into the story. She kind of made my tummy ache. But the author is able to throw in some cute moments in between, the fact that she's kind of a klutz and has a very wild imagination helped push the story along.

When Tess discovers some unusual strangers in the house near their grandparents. She develops a somewhat unhealthy stalker-ish attitude towards the family that lives there. Even when requested by her grandfather to stay away and give them peace.

I think that the most disappointing part was how far Tess gets involved in harassing the new family and even going as far as getting involved in a scheme with a very much older and dangerous man in the area. (This part made my stomach hurt the most when reading, I had no idea where this story would take me)

So, it was a little bit darker than I thought it was going to be. I have to say that I thought that the story was put together well and the ending events pulled it all together nicely.

It is a book I would recommend to some readers that might have an interest in other cultures and if they are younger, available to a parent to talk some of the actions out that Tess (and Frank the scary neighbor) partakes in. Discussion would be good. But of course if your older and looking for something different, this is a book you'll want to try. It sure had me thinking a lot.