Death at Devil’s Bridge


by Cynthia DeFelice
Reading level: Ages 9-12

Synopsis

Thirteen-year-old Ben Daggett, a Martha’s Vineyard local, was looking forward to a bust profitable summer working as a first mate on board a charter fishing boat. But Ben’s summer gets crazy after he discovers a sunken car. The car’s owner, a wealthy tourist, is missing, and the police suspect drugs are involved in his disappearance. Worse, Ben begins to wonder about his friend Donny Madison’s role in the events. Donny is sixteen, has his own car, and is the coolest guy on Martha’s Vineyard. Ben finds out that Donny, who resents each summer’s invasion of vacationers, sank the car and steals from the rich tourists, and he thinks Donny may be involved in more crimes. Ben desperately wants to like him, but how far will he go to win Donny’s approval?

In this sequel to Devil’s Bridge, Ben Dagget learns about his own vulnerabilities and strengths, the limits of friendship, and the tough choices we all have to make.

Awards

A Junior Library Guild selection
New York Public Library 100 Best Books for Reading and Sharing
Children’s Literature Choice List Book for 2001
Bank Street College Best Books of the Year List

From the Author

I wrote this sequel to “Devil’s Bridge” eight years after the original story. While spending time at Martha’s Vineyard, the beautiful island that is the setting for both books, I began to think again about the main character Ben Daggett, and what might have happened to him after the first book ended.

One of the first events in the book is based on something that really happened. My husband and son and I were in our boat heading out of West Basin Harbor (on the island of Martha’s Vineyard) when suddenly Ralph called out, “Cut the engine, Dad. There’s a CAR in the water!” And, sure enough, there was a Porsche, a very expensive sports car, sunk in the channel. I’ll never forget the eerie feeling of seeing something so strange and out of place. We never found out the real story of how it came to be there and neither did the local police, as far as I know.

While writing the book, I thought back to my own childhood. Like Ben, I went through a time when I was lured into doing things I knew were wrong, when I was tempted by the desire to be “cool,” and to be liked by certain other kids. It seems to me there are so many temptations for kids today. I wanted to show how even a “good kid” might get sucked into making mistakes, and I wanted to show his struggles to cope with the results.

Of course, I’m always trying to write a rip-roaring good adventure, as well, one that will keep readers turning pages to find out what will happen next!

Reviews

“DeFelice presents a compelling story showing just how peer pressure and the desire to be popular can erode a person’s integrity and morals… Death at Devil’s Bridge is a thought-provoking book that even as a sequel stands on its own.” – VOYA

“DeFelice writes a riveting story of a 13-year-old boy seduced by the thrill of dangerous friendship and, despite good intentions, drawn into the treacherous world of drugs and murder…Brought to an exhilarating close, this novel is both absorbing and thought-provoking. DeFelice dexterously weaves in the conflict of us (the poor) vs. them (the rich) as Donny makes excuses for his illegal activities. Keeping the reader in the grip of the plot, she explores a teen’s use of moral tools in the face of pressure from peers.” - Kirkus Reviews

“Even reluctant readers will fly through the story’s clever, well-plotted suspense, and readers of a variety of ages will enjoy DeFelice’s cast of believable characters, and sympathize with Ben’s moral wrestling as he tries to reconcile his actions with his conscience.” - Booklist

“Peer pressure, self-esteem, and a developing sense of responsibility for one’s own actions intermingle as potentially dangerous situations develop. DeFelice artfully presents Ben’s inner conflicts, forcing the audience to empathize with him as the mystery unfolds…will hook its target audience to the end.” - School Library Journal

Death at Devil’s Bridge by Cynthia DeFelice
Hardcover – 192 pages (August 2000)Farrar Straus & Giroux (Juv); ISBN: 0374317232