I can’t believe how much I liked this novel! I also was surprised that some of themes addressed in The Dirty Girls Social Club overlapped with this novel since two characters in this novel have similar issues to two characters from my previous read. Then again, both novels have what could be considered stock characters but imbued them with enough life and personality to make them feel original and interesting so it shouldn’t be that big of a surprise.
Another discovery I can blame on CBR reviews! Some blurbs refer to this as “The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars” but I preferred this to The Breakfast Club (I was too old the first time I saw it so it has no nostalgia value). When Bronywn, Nate, Addy, Connor and Simon all find themselves stuck together in detention with Mr. Avery, Simon quickly points out that excluding him, they all fit the stereotypical teen movie character types. Bronwyn is the brain, Nate is the slacker/criminal, Connor is the jock and Addy is the princess. Unlike The Breakfast Club, the five students appear to have been framed or pranked – all five discover they are in detention for bringing phones to Mr. Avery’s class (different periods hence the surprise), but all of them say they were not their phones and that they are generic burners.
What starts as a potentially innocent prank takes a dark turn when Simon has an allergic reaction and dies. Given the oddities of Simon’s exposure to peanut oil and the missing epi-pens, it doesn’t take long for the police to suspect foul play. Simon ran a gossip blog which had ruined people’s lives before, and he had something cued up for all four of the people in the room with him. Obviously, they all have secrets and potential motives but did any of them actually do it? After all, Simon had made plenty of enemies already so the motive could have been revenge rather than secret keeping.
It doesn’t help keep things calm when someone keeps posting on Tumblr, claiming to be the killer and to have watched it happen. Is the killer really posting updates, is someone trolling them or is something else at play?
The narrative shifts between the perspectives of the four suspects, and as the reader gets their perspectives, it is hard to believe any of the four actually could have done it. While the characters easily could have become the stereotypes they are described as in the beginning (and their journeys are a bit stereotypical in many ways), McManus made them so human and appealing. Even when things were not a huge surprise and rather familiar, I enjoyed the ways she wove the narrative together and found myself rooting for the characters. Surprisingly, the brain was not even my favorite character, though I am sure Bronwyn would have been the one I related to if I had read this as an actual young adult. I liked Addy’s evolution as she learns who her friends were and discovers her identity beyond her relationship, and enjoyed getting to know Connor, the polite Southern baseball prodigy, who seems too clean cut to be true. And, of course, I loved Nate since he is basically Jordan Catalano, Tim Riggins and every other slacker type rolled into one.
So definitely check this one out if you are in the mood for some well-written high school drama or feeling nostalgic for things like The Breakfast Club. I shouldn’t have been surprised given the recommendations, but it was a page turner that even took some turns to deeper subject matters involving relationships that probably should be discussed with teenagers.