The summary I read for this book on another site was (this is paraphrased) that it was about an eighteen-year old autistic boy who was on trial for murder, and that only one person believed in his innocence. I thought this was a fascinating concept, especially as I have been watching and reading more and more amazing pieces of fiction with leading characters who have autism.
Sadly, I feel as though this book would’ve been far better if it wasn’t YA.
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Hope Long’s life revolves around her brother Jeremy. So when Jeremy is accused of killing the town’s beloved baseball coach, Hope’s world begins to unravel. Everyone is convinced Jeremy did it, and since he hasn’t spoken a word in 9 years, he’s unable to defend himself. Their lawyer instructs Hope to convince the jury that Jeremy is insane, but all her life Hope has known that Jeremy’s just different than other people—better, even. As she works to prove his innocence—joined by her best friend T.J. and the sheriff’s son, Chase—Hope uncovers secrets about the murder, the townspeople, her family, and herself. She knows her brother isn’t the murderer. But as she comes closer to the truth, she’s terrified to find out who is.
Story: 2.5/5: The basic idea given in the summary is awesome. It sounds like it has potential to be a truly great murder mystery, as well as inspirational. In fact, the trial parts and scenes with Jeremy were amazing. I really loved those scenes. But unfortunately, they aren’t the majority of the book. No, the book mostly revolves around Hope becoming incredibly fixated on one idea and doing stupid things for the sake of detective work, including breaking and entering (just don’t. Sometimes it works, but not this time.) When it wasn’t about Hope believing single-mindedly that her idea of who the killer was, was right, it was about her romance with Chase, the sheriff’s son who was helping her. Their romance felt really unneeded and caused me to roll my eyes several times. I also knew who the killer was almost immediately, so the whole book frustrated me with it’s predictability. In fact, the only twist that truly surprised me was Jeremy’s jar collection’s relevance.
I also wished it talked more Jeremy being autistic/ having Asperger’s. It’s never made clear which he has (and there is a very clear difference, mind you. Although the term Asperger’s has been more or less gotten rid of because of insurance, there is still a line between the two). I would think that his different way of thinking would have a huge impact on his trial and the accusations made against him and his defense as well. But it’s only mentioned in one trial scene, and then is never really brought up again (there’s only talk of sending him to a mental institution). This was a hugely wasted opportunity, in my opinion.
Overall, the book shone with the trial scenes, and any scenes involving Jeremy and his being different. Those captured what I thought the book would be about. But the silly detective work and the unneeded romance just kind of killed the book for me.
Characters: 2/5: Here’s my other problem with the book: the characters. Only one or two I found likable.
First, Hope. Gah. Hope is really not made to be a detective. First, she becomes absolutely fixated on one theory and refuses to budge from it. She does ridiculous things to find evidence that supports her theory. I would’ve been fine with her character (heck, I may have even liked her) but her fixation and her constantly annoying methods that she tries to call investigation just felt obsessive at best, and stupid at worst.
T.J is her best friend. I never got much from him, just that he’s pretty emotional, and often has anger problems. He didn’t make an impression on me.
Chase is Hope’s crush. He just seemed too perfect(?) Supportive of Hope, despite not knowing her well? Yep. Reciprocates her feelings in a short time (plus, during a murder trial for her brother…not the best timing). Check. Apparently super hot and desirable? You guessed it. He also has some temper problems. Their romance didn’t match the tone of the book, and felt very cliché.
Jeremy was easily my favorite character. In all of Hope’s flashbacks of him speaking, he seems incredibly smart and intuitive, as well as being a great older brother. I liked the twist involving his collection of empty jars. That was really creative, and was an amazing twist.
Rita, Hope and Jeremy’s mom, just felt like the typical alcoholic, emotionally (and sometimes physically) abusive, and flirty mother. She was a terrible mother.
Writing: 2.5/5: The book didn’t have any noticeable grammar flaws or misspellings, and the trial scenes actually succeeded in adding some tension. But it was the dialogue that I couldn’t stand. It felt so cliché and ridiculous. I kept on thinking, This isn’t how people speak. Heck, this isn’t even how people think! It felt…stiff, and unnatural at times, and at its worst moments, was borderline cheesy and overdramatic. I also felt like the pacing was poor. Sometimes I’d skim a paragraph, and they’d be in a totally different place, doing something really different, which would leave me confused.
Details: 3/5: The details were actually pretty good, particularly with characters. With the exception of T.J, I could visualize most of the characters really well.
World Building: 2/5: The small town they lived in felt pretty ordinary. I didn’t feel as though there was particularly anything unique or interesting about it.
- Good trial scenes: a trial scene is often hit or miss. It can feel unrealistic and stupid, or realistic. Thankfully, this veered more towards the latter.
- Jeremy’s jars: Jeremy’s collection of empty jars was a unique plot point with a twist I loved. It was so unique and creative, and best of all, felt realistic.
- Also, I could visualize the characters. Most YA novels lately have had a lack of description. This one had enough without being overboard.
- If you’re looking for a book with unique autism representation, this isn’t for you. It’s only mentioned and clarified once, and even after that, everyone just calls Jeremy “different”. In fact, I could make a pretty solid argument that Ty Blackthorn’s confirmed autism from The Dark Artifices is more accurate and has more relevance plot-wise and for representation.
- Unneeded romance: Hope and Chase’s romance felt very unnecessary for the plot and for the characters. It also didn’t match the tone. I mean, it bothered me that Hope and Chase really started dating during a murder trial. Subtext, yes, that could work. But it needed to slow down! Plus, I didn’t get the chemistry, it felt lacking.
- Also, I can be good with unlikable characters, as long as they’re interesting. Shows like Broadchurch and books like The Girl on the Train are good examples. This wasn’t. Most of the characters were unlivable, but also felt shallow.
Grade: 2/5, although my personal rating could even be as low as 1.5/5. I feel as though my expectations of the book were very high, and I felt this had a ton of potential. However, it fell prey to classic YA cliches, such as a predictable killer, an unneeded romance, and twists (with the exception of one) that tried too hard. I think that if this weren’t a YA, it would’ve been better.