Reviews of Teen Books by Genre: Mystery

Flush
Hiaasen, Carl
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Flush, written by Carl Hiaasen was about a boy, named Noah. Noah has a father who is in jail for sinking a boat called the Coral Queen. His father has been put in jail before, and never regrets what he has done because he believes that he is responsible for his actions, and it is worth it for what he has done. Noah is used to his father doing crazy stuff like this, because when Noah's father sees something that upsets him, he will do whatever he can to stop it, especially with people hurting and damaging wildlife. The reason he got recently put in jail is because he claimed that he saw the boat putting all of their sewage into the ocean water. Even though his dad does lots of crazy and unpredictable things, Noah thinks his dad would never lie to him about what he saw. He starts to investigate and tries to prove that the Coral Queen did in fact put sewage into the ocean. This book did surprise me in some ways, and the book got more and more interesting as it went on.

Reviewer grade:

Reviewer's Name: Riley C.
One of Us is Lying
McManus, Karen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

One of Us is Lying is like The Breakfast Club, as it it involves a bunch of "teen movie stereotypes", during an interesting detention. These include Bronwyn, the "brain", Nate, the "criminal", Addy, the "beauty", Cooper, the "athlete", and Simon, the "outcast". However, the similarities end there, as one of them, Simon, dies from a suspicious allergy attack during the detention. Simon was the creator of the gossip app known as "About That," which shared other students' secrets and gossip. He had been planning to post about the other four before his death, making them all suspects in his murder. Or is it all a frameup? The reader has to decide whether one of the incredibly likable four leads is a lying murderer, or if they're all victims.

This book was very addictive. McManus' writing was detailed, and she was able to distinguish the four's voices as their own. No one sounded or felt the same, and each of their narratives were equally enthralling. Each lead character is a deconstruction of the stereotype they're based off of, and in a way, this is a deconstruction of the mystery genre in general; unlike most, it's more character driven than plot driven.

My main complaint is that some of these students seem overly capable in a way. Not just the four, but the supporting character's talents are beyond most high schoolers. It may have made more sense if the setting was in college. However, this is something I see a lot of in YA fiction today, so it doesn't overly bother me, and it didn't lessen my enjoyment of the book.

I recommend this if you like mysteries and character driven stories where every character, both leading and supporting, are developed, fleshed out characters.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Kate D.
NERVE
Ryan, Jeanne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Nerve is about a coward named Vee who decides to try this game online called NERVE. In this mysterious game, you can either be a player or a watcher.

Watchers must pay money to watch, and players get paid to do dares. Vee thinks this is a stupid idea, but then begins to wonder if it actually a fun thing to do. She decides to try it out. One challenge leads to another, and the dares begin to become deadly. Should Vee risk her life for a good prize, or will she lose NERVE?

This is a great book for anyone obsessed with online games, or thrills in general. I definitely recommend this book for any thrill seekers.

Reviewer's Name: Kristin V.
Angels & Demons
Brown, Dan
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

While Angels and Demons is not nearly as popular as its sequel, the famous (if not infamous) The Da Vinci Code, the elements which led to its successor’s success are certainly all contained within this first book in the Robert Langdon series. Of course, just because you have the materials to build a nice house doesn’t mean that it magically becomes a mansion. Despite containing many of the elements that made The Da Vinci Code so good, Angels and Demons feels a little underdeveloped in quite a few areas.

First, the protagonist, Robert Langdon, is supposed to feel like an “Indiana Jones”-type character, but with a specialty like symbology as his background, I just can’t buy the action-hero transformation of this everyday academic. Add to this the almost repetitive nature of his “discoveries” wherein he makes an assessment, then goes to the location of the assessment only to find that he didn’t think of it in the right way and thus requiring the whole plot to shift gears as he rushes to the new location. He eventually had better predictions, but by then it felt repetitive.

Secondly, the whole “treasure hunt” to find the antimatter (of which I feel CERN is a more recognizable name than it was back in 2000) seemed to take a back burner to the parallel plot of the pope’s death and finding his replacement. It is hard to focus on both plotlines, especially since both of them had pretty predictable endings. Finally, the romance aspect of this novel seemed quite forced, even to the point where the final scene of the book felt like it was ripped out of a James Bond story. Wherein a modicum of charm from the male protagonist makes his female counterpart swoon with undying affection that wasn’t in any part of the prior plot.

A rough start to the Robert Langdon series, I give Angels and Demons 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Awards:
The Da Vinci Code
Brown, Dan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

What a difference three years makes! Even though it contains all the same tropes and motifs that Angels and Demons did, The Da Vinci Code eliminates the fluff and focuses on the strengths of these individual pieces to create an enthralling adventure through Christian history. I will admit that I first read this book because I was curious about the controversy that surrounded it. While Dan Brown is a fantastic storyteller, and many of his connections and links to Christianity made sense, I still maintain that, at its core, The Da Vinci Code is just well-written fiction.

This time around, Robert Langdon is much better suited for the task of finding the “Holy Grail” instead of being a glorified Roman tour guide. His expertise in symbology certainly helped to drive the plot forward, even if it sometimes was in a misleading direction for the sake of a twist. I did appreciate how, even if a clue didn't immediately come into play, it became useful later to help round out the plot. It wasn’t just a series of “find me a rock” exercises but had a parallel set of intersecting strings and subplots that drove the story forward to its exciting conclusion.

And while the female protagonist was much more developed than the one in Angels and Demons, the villains also had more depth to them as well. Instead of a few individuals using the name of a huge organization like the Illuminati to create the conflict, a singular man with a singular goal helped to create the “chase” that propelled Robert Langdon across Christendom to find the Holy Grail. While both The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons share almost identical plot structures, the former shows that the execution of such a story is precisely what makes one a great read and the other an exercise in eye-rolling.

An exciting treasure hunt filled with fictional historical connections, I give The Da Vinci Code 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Awards:
The Screaming Staircase
Stroud, Jonathan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Fans of Bartimaeus will not be disappointed by Jonathan Stroud’s series, Lockwood & Co. The “Problem” started about 50 years ago in London. Ghosts became true, dangerous, and very real threats to the living. Only young people have the ability to “see” and eradicate these creatures of the night. Enter Lockwood & Co., a company of three who go out nightly to defend the city. Great adventure, ghost story, and humor interweave for perfect storytelling in The Screaming Staircase, the first in the series.

Reviewer's Name: Kristin
Genres:
Agent of Chaos
Garcia, Kami
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

When Fox Mulder was just a kid, his little sister was kidnapped while he was babysitting her. That event has haunted him and his family ever since. So, when children start to go missing and then turn up dead from what appears to be a ritualistic serial killer, Mulder knows that he has to do something.

While I like the X-files, I'm certainly not the world's greatest fan - I've probably seen around 1/2 of the episodes, and I haven't watched the reboot. However, this book jumped out at me as I was perusing the stacks, and I'm glad it did. In fact, if you are just a fan of mysteries and/or the paranormal, this book will totally meet your needs. You can go into this without knowing anything about Mulder and the TV show, and you'll still have a great reading experience. If you are an avid fan of the show, there are several "easter eggs", cameos and cute references throughout the book (the smoking man shows up in the first chapter!). Also, it's got some entertaining historical fiction elements as the book is set in 1979, and that is very much reflected in the music and technology.

Garcia does a great job with the character development. Mulder quickly teams up with two other "genuis" types, and this book could've quickly devolved into some variation of "three teen geniuses solve a crime caper" a la a number of middle grade/YA books out there, but Garcia fleshed the characters out to the point that this pitfall was, for the most part, avoided. Mulder is, understandably, obsessed with finding his sister, and his parents are separated. His best friend, Gimble (a D&D name), has a father who is so enmeshed into conspiracy theories that he's been fired from the Air Force (he may or may not be an influence to young Mulder). His other best friend, also a love interest, was not as well developed, she was easily the weakest character, and I could've done without her and the romance. The story itself was a well done serial killer mystery, though the end felt a little abrupt with a ton of loose strings. The mystery is only mostly resolved, so I'm assuming there will be a sequel.

Anyone looking for a decent mystery with good characters, look no further. The X-files stuff is just icing on what is an already pretty tasty cake. I wanted to believe (I couldn't help myself), and this book didn't let me down. 3.5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls
Weingarten, Lynn
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

In Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarton, June, a high school junior, investigates the mysterious "suicide" of her ex-best friend, Delia.
Throughout the book she discovers new mysteries and experiences betrayal and numbness. Her character develops quickly to adapt to what events occur. I liked how the book connects with June's feelings about the events, and describes them in detail, like any good book should. I did not like how the author only included two point of views, I would like to read what the other characters thought about and how they reacted in their thoughts. I pick this book because I wanted a mystery novel and the title as well as the cover piqued my interest immediately. Suicide note from beautiful girls had surprising moments, that made me think 'wow, I can't believe that just happened' but it had moments where I could predict what was going to happen.
I could semi relate to June, she as well as I have lost a best friend. I would say this isn't the best book I've read this year, but it is up there with a good story plot.

Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Gemini K.
We Were Liars
Lockhart, E.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

i read we were liars before e lockart came to the library and i was soooo happy when i found out she was coming. her speech at the library was so inspirational and amazing. anyways its about a girl named cadence sinclair who has a really broken family and they wont accept this Indian boy named gat who she loves. her family goes to an island every summer and gat is never really accepted the end of the book is so heartbreaking and unexpected good for fans of john green, rainbow rowell, julie buxbaum, lauren myracle and more.

Reviewer's Name: elizabeth p.
Genres:
The Thief Lord
Funke, Cornelia
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In Cornelia Funke's "The Thief Lord", the most famous thief in all of Venice is a young boy who goes by the name of The Thief Lord. He has recruited a large band of misfits to aid him in these crimes -- including runaway orphan brothers Prosper and Bo, who are being pursued by a detective hired by their aunt and uncle. The story had a great pace and was fun and engaging. The setting was described vividly and could be considered a character of its own.
The only flaw I saw was in the ending, which seemed out of place and didn't flow right with the rest of the story. But, the book was still great. I'd highly recommend it to readers of all ages.
Review Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
The Amateurs
Shepard, Sara
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Seneca's life revolves around solving cold cases and unsolved murders. As soon as she found the Case Not Closed website online, she becomes obsessed to the point where she stops paying attention in classes and risks expulsion from her university. But when the sister of Helena Kelly, a murder victim who disappeared mysteriously in a sleepy Connecticut town, reaches out through through the website, Seneca knows all bets are off. Along with some friends from the site, she finds herself in Connecticut for spring break trying to solve the mystery of Helena Kelly's disappearance.

I recently read a book that was billed as "Twin Peaks" meets "Gossip Girl" and it sucked. I figured this one might fill that now existent hole in my life. While it was a bit more "Gossip Girl" than "Twin Peaks", the book was exactly what I wanted it to be: brainless but entertaining with a good mystery. It dragged a little in the middle, but otherwise, the pacing was pretty fast especially as the clues start to come together. The dialog is breezy and light, the mystery and background of the characters is, for the most part, pretty dark and the cast is diverse but underdeveloped. Shepard totally fooled me with the killer - I thought I knew who it was, but I had no idea.

If a slightly soapy murder mystery sounds like it could be your thing, look no further. I enjoyed this one - 3 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
We Know It Was You
Thrash, Maggie
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

Popular school mascot Brittany Montague jumps off a bridge in her mascot costume. The only two members of the private school's "Mystery Club" are determined to find out why.

This book took me forever to read, mostly because it was kind of awful. I picked it up because I love a good murder mystery and this was billed as Twin Peaks meets Pretty Little Liars. While I'm not super familiar with either property, I figured that this meant it would be a dark and weird murder mystery with a touch of scandal and gossip, which, YES PLEASE. I was also pretty drawn in by that AMAZING cover. Kudos to whoever designed that. But the book itself was not so great. I've actually got so many reasons that I didn't like it that I'm going to present them in an enumerated list:

1. The "mystery" such that it is, is actually solved in the first 100 pages, and the book was seriously uninteresting after that.
2. BOTH main characters were freaking terrible, small, boring people.
3. Aside from the MCs, there were five "bad" characters in the book, four of which were people of color (three are Asians - does the author have something against Asians?). There's also a weird sort of anti-Semitic statement. So.
4. Adults are presented as being totally worthless. Something to this effect is actually said multiple times.
5. There is a weird unresolved child porn sex-ring subplot that will seemingly go somewhere in the next book? Somehow this is a series?
6. Our lovely main girl character refers to other lady characters as sluts, because, as mentioned earlier, she is freaking terrible. There is other fun sexist messaging as well. At one point, a coach basically calls women crazy because they get periods. Awesome.
7. Oh yeah, and there is rape. Because of course there is. Our main characters know about it, but do they do anything? No! Because they are terrible. The whole thing is basically shrugged off.

Sigh. This was clearly meant to be satire or a parody or funny or something, but whatever the author was doing, it was not working. Not for me, anyway. 1 star - I did NOT like it.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Journey's End
Hawkins, Rachel
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

After her parents split, Georgia girl Nolie Stanhope finds herself spending her summer in a mysterious town called "Journey's End" in Scotland while her father investigates a mysterious fog (known as The Boundary) that's plagued the local village folk for centuries. Nolie is pretty excited - in addition to some sweet international travel, she's an avid ghost enthusiast, and feels like the summer might be promising in that department. And she is pretty immediately proven right! When Nolie and her new Scottish friend Bel see a weird dude walking down the beach, they think they've seen a ghost. Have they? And why is the Boundary suddenly moving closer to shore?

This was a pretty great MG ghost story. The setting is wonderful - Scotland sort of lends itself to mystery, and Hawkins imbues the village of Journey's End with a ton of charm, personality, and a touch of creepiness. Both of the lead characters, Bel and Nolie, were pretty well fleshed out with distinctive and likable personalities. Their friendship, while quickly formed, was believable and would be a great example for young girls. There's a bit of bullying and some exposition about the effects of divorce, so some important relatable issues are addressed. The Boundary itself is a fantastic and appropriately creepy mystery centerpiece. Really, my only complaint is that there was a ton of build-up to a mystery/ghost story that was pretty quickly and too easily resolved. But I'm a tough customer when it comes to middle grade reads, and overall, this one was pretty great so I'll go with the 4 star rating. I'll definitely be booktalking this one with sixth graders in the fall.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
The Writing on the Wall
Lichtman, Wendy
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

For my review I read Writing on the Wall byWendy Lichtman. It is about a young girl and how she uses math in life. There is a little mystery though. There was a fire in one of the class rooms and someone thinks it was Arson. Instead of telling anyone they write it in an obvious place in code. I really liked how creative the author got with this book.

Reviewer Grade:8

Reviewer's Name: Paige C.
Stormbreaker
Horowitz, Anthony
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book was suspenseful and amazing, it had several unexpected twists like when the main character finds out about his uncle’s job. This book is about a teenager whose uncle died unexpectedly. This book is a must read but it is a longer series. I recommend this book for a more experienced reader. Those readers will find it action packed and reading it is a worthy use of their time.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Thomas C.
Serafina and the Black Cloak
Beatty, Robert
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Serafina is the Chief Rat Catcher at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC in 1899. She and her Pa secretly live in the basement, where he is basically the electrical engineer of the place. Serafina's presence in the house is a secret so she mostly traverses the estate through tunnels and doesn't go outside. One night, she witnesses a man in a black coat magically abducting a child, which changes everything.

I listened to this book, and the narrator didn't really do it any favors. Her Southern accent was pretty terrible, but thankfully, she kept forgetting to use it. Narration aside though, this book had some problems. The author took a cool premise and an even cooler setting and then wrote a really boring book. There were kind of two main things going on that should have been really interesting, but weren't. The first thing was the identity of the man in the black coat, which was painfully obvious from the start. Had Beatty done a kiddo type version of an Agatha Christie novel (these are the people at the Biltmore estate...and one of them is guilty of MURDER MOST FOUL), I'd probably be typing a really different review right now. Alternatively, he could've played up Serafina's secret a bit more, and that might have made things more interesting. As it was, even though there was a lot going on, nothing of importance ever seemed to really happen.

I also found myself getting annoyed by a fictional Vanderbilt named Braedan (weird name for a kid of Dutch origins in 1899, dontcha think?) who is a bit of a love interest. Every part featuring him was pretty painful as Serafina basically becomes a useless quivering mess when he's around. Blegh. Oh, and at one point, a character says something along the lines of "you don't call girls heroes, you call them heroines" which, just, are you trying to say that girls can't be heroes? Because if so, gross. I'm paraphrasing, but that's what I took away from the statement.

But on the other hand... look at that cover! Gorgeous.

If 1.5 stars was an option, that's what we'd be doing here. I liked the beginning, the premise and the setting, but wish the author had done more with the latter two elements.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Steeplejack
Hartley, A.J.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Anglet is a steeplejack, a person who climbs buildings for a variety of work related reasons (chimney work, retrieval, the building of things, etc.). One day, at the end of a shift, she discovers a dead body on the ground. As being a steeplejack is quite dangerous, she isn't completely alarmed at first, until she realizes that the person did not die of natural causes - he had been stabbed in the back. After that, she takes it upon herself to solve the murder mystery as well as a few other mysteries that crop up along the way.

I feel like I should've liked this book more than I did. The beginning is extremely slow, but only due to the author having to do some serious world-building, which is something I often like. The world itself was pretty cool. It's a newly colonized version of South Africa, which made for a unique setting. Actually, the racism/discrimination bits were so well done as to be hard to read. The main character is likable. She's that lovely combination of fierce and vulnerable that is common in YA, but rarely successfully pulled off. Hartley pulls it off. He knows what he's about - this book was extremely well written.

So why didn't I like it? I'm kind of asking myself the same question here, but my overall feeling was definitely just "meh". I think that, for me, the book lacked any real tension or emotional impact. I liked Ang, but I never really cared that much about her, or anyone else in the story. I definitely didn't care about Berrit, the murder victim. Actually much is made about how NO ONE cares about Berrit and his life was one that wasn't going to be worth living anyway, so...who cares who murdered him, really? Aside from a few terrifying scenes featuring her would-be rapist/boss (and a few other emotional but spoilery scenes) the book went from action scene to action scene with no real emotional impact, and without feeling like it was fast paced. Somehow, in the midst of all of the action, the book felt like a really slow read, mostly because I just couldn't make myself care about the fates of most of the characters.

With a more compelling mystery and better developed characters, this book could've been very likable. Still, I think many will like it, and I'm definitely not opposed to picking up the sequel. 2 stars - it was ok.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Shine
Myracle, Lauren
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Shine by Lauren Myracle is a teen mystery book about a girl named Cat investigating the viscous assault of her old gay best friend, Patrick. She lives in a back country kind of town where everybody knows everybody, so the sheriff decides to blame the crime on outsiders to avoid causing any drama.
Cat knows this isn't really what happens so she takes matters into her own hands and interrogates all her friends and a few tweakers, aka meth addicts.
Overall, the book was very good. I enjoyed the mystery and the plot twist.
It was a page turner that made you want to keep reading without any breaks.
Although the author stayed true to the language of "redneck" people, I wasn't especially fond of it because it seemed uneducated. Otherwise, everything about this book was good. The main character is easy to relate to because she is a reader and a smart girl that stands up for her friends, but also admits her flaws. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good mystery.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Kayla B.
The Archangel Project
Graham, C.S.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

An exhilarating novel that puts you directly into the shoes of young October Guinness in a race against time and a fight against the government. When a man named Lance Palmer comes to October in her small New Orleans abode, she expects he's a good guy with his claim of being with the FBI, but she couldn't be more wrong. With motivation and determination, Lance Palmer and his crew will do anything to get rid of October because of her unique talent that could potentially leak extremely confidential information regarding the well being of the globe. Will she be able to ever live a normal life again? Will she ever outrun her past? With the help of ex-special ops and CIA agent, Jax Alexander, she just might. With gripping current events and a sense of constant danger, this book is extremely eye-opening and thrilling.
Reviewers Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Logan H.
The Face On The Milk Carton
Cooney, Caroline
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Each day a new face appears on the milk carton. No one gives it much thought. Especially not plain old Janie Johnson. Until one day she sees HER picture on the milk carton. After this she works hard to discover the truth. This book will give you chills of suspense. The book was bit strange at parts, but the overall plot was amazing. I give it a 3/5.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Emily T.

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