CW: suicide, sexual assault
This book has STRONG Veronica Mars vibes all over. Like, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how it was recommended to me and 100% of the reason I jumped to put it on hold.
Veronica lives in a small town Neptune that was rocked by a brutal murder years before. Magnetic, troubled Andie Bell Lily Kane disappeared, and the police Sheriff Lamb wiped their hands of the entire case after Sal Singh Keith Mars was deemed responsible in the court of public opinion (after he committed suicide and his body was found with traces of Andie’s blood under his fingernails). Pippa believes that Sal was innocent, and has decided to make it her senior capstone project to figure out what really happened along with her sidekick Wallace Ravi, a POC with a significant role in a cast town that is otherwise prettty homogenous.
The book alternates between third person POV chapters (where the action happens) and first person journal entry-style chapters where Pippa narrates
Veronica voice overs her thoughts, copies down interviews with suspects, and keeps track of persons of interest. I understand the choice but think that it’s a mistake–part of the mystique of the PI is gone when you can hear Pippa’s thoughts and ‘stream of consciousness.’ She jumps to conclusions very quickly in these first person segments, and unlike with a third person POV you can’t add qualifiers like “she said hesitantly” or “Pippa didn’t respond, her mind whirring furiously” or “she was quiet for what seemed like a while, trying to sort through what she just read.”
She’s also full of truly inane impulses, which I can forgive (somewhat) on account of the fact that she is 17, lives in a small, “safe” town, and is white. Ravi, Sal’s brother, is frequently the voice of reason noting both that Pippa shouldn’t be breaking into people’s houses and that he, as a brown man, really can’t be doing so. She’s continually putting herself utterly needlessly into completely dangerous situations that make you want to throw the book against the wall. Yes, I believe that the world needs to change so that women feel like they can walk through it freely but also don’t go into creepy men’s houses with no backup.
Red herrings abound, but Pippa’s wide eyed first person POVs strip a lot of the urgency from them. Spoilers: [It doesn’t help that the villains are the sort that we’ve now been conditioned to look out for. Oh, the friendly well-liked male teacher? He’s gonna be a pedophile (he is). The jerk-y blond party kid? He’s going to be an assaulter (he is). The girl who needed the morning after pill after
Shelly Pomeroy’s a party where she ditched her friend and got so wasted she didn’t remember anything? She going to have been roofied and/or raped (yes on both).]
I’m not being mean about the plethora of VM references. I really love that show, but years later I can’t tell how cliché or not the plot is. The beats are, after all, very common–the red herring, the sexy secret. At the end of the day part of what you love about VM is that she comes off as this hardboiled PI but at the end of the day is really just a marshmallow teenager trying to make sense of a confusing world. I never really bought into why Pippa decided to put her comfortable existence on the line to solve Andie’s murder. She didn’t really know, but unfortunately we hear all of that in the first person and so can’t even formulate our own ideas. Probably not going to continue reading the series.