Quick summary: Who knew teenagers could be so psychotic?!
Try this if you like: Agatha Christie, Riverdale & true-crime documentaries.
In this YA crime thriller we follow the lives of 4 teens whose lives are completely changed when their classmate dies in detention. Through the book we follow Cooper, Addy, Bronwyn and Nate as they try to clear their names of Simon Kelleher’s murder. As the case evolves and relationships deepen, one thing is clear – they all have something to hide, and one of them is definitely lying. But who did it?
The reason this book is stellar is because of the way McManus constructs characters. We switch between the POV’s of the four teenagers throughout, and the secrets they keep run so deep that they don’t even let the reader know them. The fact that you can’t trust everything the narrator is saying really adds a fantastic dimension to the book – the reader is as much a participant in solving the crime as the characters are!
McManus’ fantastic writing doesn’t stop here. The way she slowly builds the lives and personalities of the characters is also highly impressive. At first, the characters cling to the stereotypes in which they belong in a painfully one-dimensional manner. Cooper is the jock, Addy is the princess, Nate is the criminal and Bronwyn is the nerd. Then, suddenly you’re halfway through the book and realising that Cooper is struggling with his identity, Addy is being emotionally abused, Nate is a young carer and Bronwyn is cracking under pressure and systemic racism. As we watch all of these characters struggle, and learn more about Simon’s dark activities, we are poignantly reminded of the flaws in the pastoral support of the education system.
As far as the murder mystery aspect of this book goes – if you are a murder-mystery aficionado, you may well figure out ‘whodunnit’ reasonably early on. The clues are there. However, having not read loads and loads of murder mysteries, I was kept on tenterhooks until the big AHA reveal moment. The way in which McManus constructs the plot, and dripfeeds small secrets and pieces of information is ingenious, and really keeps you guessing the whole way through.