After reading several reviews from blogger friends like Mandy (who even admitted to not being much of a mystery person) and Krysti, who each loved this book, I knew I had to check this out, especially being the mystery lover I am.
Summary: Pay close attention and you might solve this. On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention. Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing. Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher. And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app. Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.
Story: 4/5: When I read the summary to my mom, all she said was, “That kinda sounds like The Breakfast Club,” until I got to the murder part. In fact, that was why I was hesitant to pick this up at first; I’ve never been interested in The Breakfast Club, due to my tiredness of clichès. (They actually reference this, as the four leads dub themselves “The Murder Club”) However, the story turns out to be really unique, as we are trying to figure out if any of our beloved leads is actually a killer. But as it goes on, our hearts become stressed and nervous, as we care for each of them. It’s surprisingly stressful, due to this attachment.
While this will never win any awards for being symbolic and “deep”, that’s okay; it’s an intelligent, character driven mystery, which is really cool; most mysteries are plot driven, but this is an amazing deconstruction of just about everything, from the mystery genre to character types. It’s fun, and very emotional. My main complaints can be found in the details section.
Writing: 4/5: McManus is really good at slipping into each character. None of them sound similar, and they each have their own struggles and worries. In multi POV books, there’s always the danger of charters sounding and behaving similar, but not here; everyone has their own voice and mindset. She proves to be incredibly talented, and her writing style is always prevalent and addicting. It’s hard to believe this is a debut.
Characters: 5/5: The characters are even better than the mystery. Everyone is inspired by an old clichè, but they each prove to be a deconstruction of their type, revealed through their own backstory, situations, and the dirt Simon had on them.
Bronwyn is the “nerd” type. She’s Latina, which is pretty cool, as most nerd character aren’t, and she comes from a successful and reasonably happy family who may have had their struggles, (especially with her younger sister’s cancer) but are well adjusted nonetheless. She’s Yale bound, but her struggles are mainly internal due to her desperation. She’s one of my favorites, and is also an excellent sleuth.
Nate is my other favorite. While I usually don’t care much for the “bad boy” type, Nate is different due to the fact that he’s a genuinely kind person, but is portrayed as really flawed without any sugar coating. He does come from a pretty nasty background, with parents who have some really bad mental illness problems. But he’s written so interestingly, naturally and honestly that he’s easy to like and care for.
Addy seems really shallow at first, and overly dependent on her boyfriend. But her over dependence is actually her biggest problem, as she comes from a household with a shallow and vain mother who basically encourages this behavior. Her journey is about finding her self reliance, independence, and personality. In some ways, she had the most character development, which is pretty cool.
Cooper’s story is sad, as it is actually not uncommon; he’s good at sports, and his father pressures him like crazy because of that, mainly scholarship wise. He’s not allowed to act like himself except with his grandmother (who should get an award for being one of the coolest fictional grandparents) . He’s one of the biggest plot twists, mainly with his own “dirt”, which may have been changed on the app…
The supporting characters ( Maeve, Ashton, Nonny, Kris, Jake, Janae, Eli, and even more) are also amazingly well written, but one character that is exceptionally well written is Simon. Even though he’s dead fairly quickly in the book, he is uncovered to be a more complex character than you would guess.
Details: 3.5/5: Some details are never explained, like how Simon got his information. Not just the main four’s secrets, but everyone; how did he find out all this stuff? It’s never explained, and that irritates the living daylights out of me. However, the mystery does come cleanly together, even if some aspects are a bit contrived for me.
World Building: 3.5/5: My main complaint with YA nowadays is that everyone acts older than high school, and this is no exception. The About That app is interesting and a cool plot device, but I have issues with a high schooler creating it. In some ways, I feel this would make more sense in college.
- Non-Comedic Deconstruction: most deconstructions are comedies, but not this. McManus takes each trope and skews them amazingly, making them feel realistic and fleshed out. Even the mystery genre is skewed, as it is a more character driven dynamic than in most. Both the characters and the mystery are very clever, well written, and fleshed out. Oh, and each of the ships are really cute, especially the main one; they’re totally OTP worthy.
- Diversity: the diversity here is well placed and doesn’t go overboard, nor does it feel awkward or contrived. It has Latina representation, as well as LGBTQ+, but it rings true and while it may be a central part of each character, their arcs don’t revolve entirely around their diversity, making them feel less like symbols and more like people who happen to be in minority groups.
- Developed Side Characters: Each side character has their moment to shine too, which also adds a layer of realism to the story. In many books, the supporting characters are simply there in an attempt to be more realistic, but often fail because they aren’t developed. Not here.
- As I said, I was left hanging on how Simon got his information. That’s my main thing with “criminal information” characters, as much as I like some of them; their methods of obtaining their knowledge are never specified. But here it seemed really important, and I just felt like it was a bit of a logic gap.
- Easy to solve?: It may have been that I took my time with this book, or that I like to read and write mysteries, but I figured out the ending. My mindset was similar to the character who did unravel the mystery for a while, and I was left thinking, “How did it take you guys so long to even come up with the idea?” If they’d thought of it earlier but dismissed it, that could’ve helped.
- Too mature to be high schoolers: Like with most YA, even books I love, the characters felt too mature. About That didn’t seem like an app a teen would make, and some of the plot points that were influenced by the students felt contrived; I don’t think many teens would be so good at some of the plot devices (I can’t explain due to spoilers) without a ton of practice. It would’ve made more sense if they were in college.
Grade: 4/5: Despite my problems with some parts, I felt this was a wonderfully written, character driven mystery deconstruction that was engrossing and addictive. I find it hard to believe this is a debut, and I look forward to more of McManus’s books in the future.