Mystery

Book Review: A Good Girl's Guide To Murder

Author
Jackson, Holly
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder is a YA mystery novel following high schooler Pippa Fitz-Amobi. What first started as a school project, Pippa begins to dig into the murder of high schooler Andie Bell, a case that occurred five years ago, in her small town. The case is apparently closed. Everyone, including the police and jury, ruled Sal Singh, Andie's boyfriend at the time, to have murdered the young girl. Of course, with Sal Singh also pronounced deceased by suicide, there was no way for him to plead guilty or otherwise.
When Pippa begins to research this closed case, she's not so sure that Sal Singh is the killer. So, enlisting Sal's younger brother Ravi Singh, the two investigate this murder mystery together, determined to bring Sal to justice. However, their small town, desperately holding onto their long-shared belief that Sal Singh is a murderer, may not be so easy to convince. But if Sal isn't the killer, who is?
This book was really well written. Written through interviews, articles, and reports, the story truly feels like your solving the murder just as much as Pippa and Ravi are. I loved how intricately the plot was crafted, and whenever new details the public didn't know about the case popped up, I was just as excited and shocked as Pippa and Ravi were. Throughout the book, many questions arose as I read along. Who is the real killer? Could Andie be alive? Did Sal actually do it?
I loved the plot twists and suspense the story put me through, and the fact that the true killer could be someone amongst their town, or someone close to Ravi or Pippa, made the plot all the more exciting. Additionally, I enjoyed the dynamic between Ravi and Pippa. While Ravi is easygoing and calm, Pippa is technical and daring. I enjoyed the balance between the two, especially some of the banter that we got to see between them.
The story also brought up some other important topics such as racial discrimination, unhealthy family relationships, drug use, and sexual assault, which I found was explained in an insightful and realistic way.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, and I was surprised by how thoughtfully it was written.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Michelle

Book Review: One of Us Is Lying

Author
McManus, Karen M.
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

One of Us Is Lying follows four high schoolers who all fit into different social circles. Bronwyn is the staple "nerd," she's smart, ambitious, and a model student. Addy is the queen bee. She's pretty, popular, and the typical girl that everyone likes. Nate is the rule-breaker. Dealing with illegal substances, and being on probation for drug dealing, he fits the mold of a "bad boy." And then there's Cooper. The golden boy, a star baseball player, and high up on the social rungs, he's adored by many.
The interesting factor about this though, is that all four of these students are being suspected for the murder of a fellow student named Simon. Simon is an outcast, the creator of a popular, yet infamous gossip app that airs out the dirty secrets of fellow Bayview High students.
So when all five of these students are called into detention one day, what happens when Simon is the only one who doesn't leave the room alive? Which one of these four students is a murderer?
A very interesting plot, McManus builds up a fair deal of suspense, giving us POV chapters from each of the four suspects, allowing us to take a look into their lives and sympathize with them. I enjoyed that the author forced us to relate to the suspects, making it all the more difficult to pick out who the killer would be. However, although the plot twists were interesting, there was something generally lukewarm about this novel. Maybe it was because each of the four characters are all walking stereotypes, or because some things seemed a little too cliche, the novel, although having its good moments, fell flat at points as well.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good YA novel or a teen fiction story, but the stereotyping and cliches that were indulged by this novel, such as a "bad boy and good girl" relationship, or how Cooper, the typical golden boy, even has a Southern accent to enunciate his supposedly Southern boyish charm (??) made the story feel like it was at times targeted for a much younger audience than advertised to.
Overall, One of Us Is Lying isn't a terrible book, but also isn't super amazing.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Michelle

Book Review: The Inheritance Games

Author
Barnes, Jennifer
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is a puzzling thriller of the Hawthorne family. Avery Grambs has a simple plan. Win a scholarship and go to college. Her plan is flipped upside down when she is summoned to the will reading of Tobias Hawthorne, a man she had never met, and receives all of his inheritance, $46 billion. Now faced with lethal dangers of the Hawthorne family wanting their money back and the world stunned how she got it, Avery searches for the one question everybody is asking. Why her? The Inheritance Games reveals the devastating secrets of the Hawthorne family and the risks people take to keep those secrets. I highly recommend this book for anybody who loves a unpredictable mystery.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Local Author?
Yes
Reviewer's Name
Jaala

Book Review: As Good As Dead

Author
Jackson, Holly
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

This is the final book in a truly unearthing trilogy. Pip is a girl who started out with a murder case that happened six years ago, but she thought there was something up with it, that turned into a kidnapping case that lead her to her last hurrah, a twisted, all-encompassing, serial killer tale. Throughout this book, Pip finds a new side to the story every day. And each day the threat gets more and more aggressive and violent than before. She and Ravi are solving a case together until it all falls apart and now they have a new mission. This book ties the series together perfectly. What happens to Nat, and Conner, Naomi, Cara, Ravi, and Pip, The Bell family, and last but certainly not least Max. Will Ravi and Pip be able to solve the crime of the century or do they have to do something even harder? This book is full of the best (and scariest) twists we have seen yet, it dives deep into how abuse and obsession can trigger somebody to do things we all thought weren't even possible.
Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name
Clare

Book Review: Once There Were Wolves

Author
McConaghy, Charlotte
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Once There Were Wolves is a story about a biologist leading a team of scientists trying to reintroduce wolves into the highlands of Scotland in order to heal the damaged ecosystem of the area.

Main character, Inti (the biologist), has mirror touch synesthesia which is a rare condition where a person feels a similar sensation in their body to the physical sensation another is actually feeling. Inti is independent, determined, and single-minded. When it comes to the reintroduction of the wolves to the area, she will not let the local farmers deter her, even as the wolves pose a serious threat to their animals. And things get a little hairy.

The present day scenes unfolding this story are interspersed with flashbacks of Inti's childhood and trauma she experienced as a young girl.

This is a beautifully told story with interesting characters, a strong environmental theme, and a bit of mystery. Once There Were Wolves was my first Charlotte McConaghy book and I will definitely look for more!

Reviewer's Name
Marika G.

Book Review: The Westing Game

Author
Raskin, Ellen
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

The Westing Game is a fun, murder-mystery that follows 16 unlikely people working together to solve a mystery of "who-dunnit?". To sum it all up, this book is about a deceased man named Sam Westing, who planned a gathering for all of his distant relatives at his hotel to play a game that will uncover who murdered him. Sam Westing had said in his will that the very person who murdered him is one of the 16, and whoever had figured out who did it, would win the game and be the heir to his fortune. I liked this book because it was very fun trying to solve the mystery along with our characters and to see all of the different perspectives and thought processes of each of them. I did often find some of the characters frustrating to deal with, however, because they didn't try to work together and only tried to solve it for themselves. If I were to give this book a grade out of 10, I would give it a 7.

Reviewer's Name
Lilleah

Book Review: The Little Friend

Author
Tartt, Donna
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

The Little Friend is a story about family, loss, remembrance, and childhood. It all rotates around a mysterious tragedy in the Dufresnes family, where the youngest boy, Robin, was found strangled and hung in a tree out back. Years later, his precocious younger sister Harriet is determined to find the killer. In her quest, she tangles with snakes and water towers and drugs and family trauma, all shown through the eyes of a bright and, for now, innocent child.
The reason this book gets a three is not because it is a so-so book, mediocre in all avenues but largely strung together enough to earn the title "Pretty Good". This book was fantastic. And bad. And thrilling. And boring. And gloriously written. And horribly structured. I read this because Donna Tartt wrote it, and I love her writing style. This style came alive in her book undoubtedly, but any future readers should be warned that the writing, and the characters, are the only things of substance in this story. The writing is prosaic and setting appropriate and beautiful and heart wrenching and perfect. The characters are so fleshed out and developed that when you're reading you can hear them breath. But that is it. The plot is nearly insubstantial, or at least insignificant. On one hand, I read this whole book and found no story of relevance. On the other hand, through the writing and the characters and the subtle morals and stories along the way, I was pulled through an entire book where I found no story of relevance. Would I recommend this? It all depends on you. If you want a story that all ties up loosely and leaves you happy and fulfilled at the end, I would say no. But if you want a tale that is so realistic and magical that you can't take your hands off the strange, wonderful pages, then I would say go for it. All in all, this book earns three stars for being nearly incomprehensible, and yet, one of the most meaningful books I've ever read. I loved it, and I will never read it again.
Reviewer grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Eve

Book Review: Truly Devious

Author
Johnson, Maureen
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Truly Devious is about a girl, Stevie, who goes to a school that is for genius students. At this school, two murders have happened. One from 1936 and one from when Stevie was there. Throughout the book, Stevie attempts to solve both murders. With her parents concerned about her safety, and her friends concerned about her sanity, Stevie digs into the deep and dirty details of the murders.
I loved this book! It kept me intrigued and I couldn't put the book down. The chapters were packed with detail and it was like I was solving the mystery as well. There is also a sequal, called the Vanishing Stairs, which is just as good!

Reviewer's Name
Mackenzie

Book Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society

Author
Stewart, Trenton Lee
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

The Mysterious Benedict Society is by far one of my best reads. Orphaned children are put to a series of tests by adults and a 'caretaker'. After the long and slightly dragged out beginning, you really begin to grasp the story. The Antagonist of the story chooses to use orphaned children because they have no roots or family. He trains them to never be afraid of their biggest fears . Although this book is slightly long and drawn out, it is still packed with lots of suspense. I would highly recommend for kids 12-14.

Reviewer's Name
Luke

Book Review: We Were Liars

Author
Lockhart, E.
Rating
2 stars = Meh
Review

We Were Liars is about a family called the Sinclair's. The plot follows Cadence or "Cady," a member of this rich and privileged family, and illustrates the friendships she has with the other four teenagers who vacation on the private island that the Sinclairs own. The novel has an interesting writing style and the premise is that Cady has been suffering from memory loss, and can't remember parts of what happened last summer on the island. However, there is clearly something bad that happened last summer that nobody will talk about. This leaves Cady to figure out herself and put together the pieces on why her memory is blank on the events of last summer, and what exactly happened. We readers have to solve the clues to figure out what this huge unspoken secret is along with Cady.
I understand the gist of what the author meant to do here. When I first began to read, it wasn’t a bad story. I actually didn’t mind the writing style unlike most readers, and yes, while the main character was pretty privileged and slightly ignorant, she wasn’t the worst character. However, the thing that was the dealbreaker for me was the big secret. The plot twist that the author had been hinting at for most of the book. The issue was, is that the big revelation wasn't very interesting or something to gasp about at all. I feel like there wasn’t enough groundwork laid in the earlier portions of the story for the plot twist, so when the huge secret was unveiled, it seemed very abrupt, random, and unsatisfying. There were too many holes and loose ends, and I think as a reader, most people will leave very unsatisfied and slightly confused after finishing this book.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Michelle