Full disclosure before you read this review: I cracked this book open on the heels of a very meaty, thought-provoking NOVEL of many, many pages. I haven’t reviewed that one yet, but it’s coming. Having wrapped my brain around something that it had to chew on over the course of a week or so and then transitioning to this book may not have been the greatest idea.
This was my book club’s choice for this month. Everyone was looking for something light to round out the summer before we start with the books you want to read under a blanket on the couch with a cup of steaming tea nearby. Fall is coming, right?
This book has been reviewed EXTENSIVELY for CBR10 so the plot has already been discussed a lot. In a nutshell, five high school kids from different social groups end up in detention together. One of the students dies during this detention and the other four become suspects. If you put Breakfast Club, 13 Reasons Why, and Gossip Girl into a blender and added just a sprinkle of Heathers, you’d get this book. It does offer a slightly different take on the dangers of bullying in the internet age, so it’s not as derivative as it could be, but it still borrows heavily from those sources.
I didn’t dislike this book, but I can’t get excited about it. Again, some of that I will totally own as my fault for reading it at a time when WHATEVER I read was going to be a bit of a let down. I will say that I found the seemingly unfettered law enforcement and media access to teenagers (I don’t think that all of them were 18) without their parent’s permission was disturbing. There is a little throwaway sentence in the book somewhere that mentions that California, where the book takes place, doesn’t have laws preventing law enforcement officers from questioning minors without their parental consent or presence. I googled it and it’s unfortunately true. That’s some kind of crazy bullshit. Talk about an easily abused power position! I don’t know if McManus was trying to make that point, but the parts of the book where adults in positions of power manipulate the kids is pretty gross. I may be overly sensitive to it since I’m the mom of a newly minted teenager, but that abuse of power coupled with the intimidation and abuse of the high school peer group makes me very, very afraid for my kid. Everyone needs to learn how to deal with adversity but this crash course in people, both adults and kids, being shitty on such an epic level is chilling. I am truly at a loss as to how to adequately prepare my kid for that.
So, there you go. This book may have been more thought provoking than I thought. The whodunnit aspect is what moved everything along for me and while some of the “mysteries” were pretty transparent, not all of it was easy to figure out immediately. It’s a good quick read but with all of the really good YA out there, I’m not sure that it stands out for me.