Review Crew Book Reviews by Genre: Mystery

You'll Be the Death of Me
McManus, Karen M.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book was so well written! Ivy, Mateo, and Cal all used to be friends in middle school but then grew apart. Ivy was having a bad day because she didn’t get class president, Booney did. She ends up running into her two old friends in the school parking lot and then decided to skip school. Little do they know they will be witnesses of Booney’s murder. The three have a day full of crazy events from being suspects of murder to being kidnapped. I really enjoyed this book. There were so many twists and turns that made it hard for you to know who did it. The suspense made you want to never put the book down. I really liked how this book was not predictable it kept you guessing all the way to the end. I would definitely recommend it.
11th grade

Reviewer's Name: Megan
One of Us is Lying
McManus, Karen M.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Everyone contains secrets but it is about how far you are willing to bear them and how long you want to shelter them. One of Us Is Lying is the first book in the One of Us Is Lying Trilogy and a YALSA 2018 Teens' Top Ten selection. One of Us Is Lying has the perfect mix of drama, suspense, mystery, and romance, and I haven’t read anything as unique. The book is extremely well written, perfect and extraordinary with the proper balance of words to keep anyone seated in one spot for hours at a time. The novel starts with five students sent to detention with only four leaving alive. The Brain, Bronwyn, The Beauty, Addy, The Athlete, Cooper, and The Criminal, Nate, Bayview High School’s most notable hypocrites are brought down throughout the novel to a level so low. According to investigators the death of a student during detention with the other four students, The Outcast, Simon, was not an accident. The leading characters are Cooper, Addy, Bronwyn, and Nate. They are all altogether diverse in the way they behave and their personality. I found Cooper the most interesting, but Bronwyn was the most sympathetic. Addy changed throughout the story starting as a typical high school popular girl and then ending with a more refreshing style. I enjoyed how the story was put together in the first person because the perspective was constantly varying which made it altogether more interesting. It uses multiple perspectives to provide you the point of view of not one, but all four suspects in a murder mystery with their motives, but the real marvel lies within the journey and experiences of the characters. This book is much deeper than just a murder mystery, and it has much more to it in terms of character development and diversity. You witness the characters’ vulnerable lives being picked apart and their deepest secrets being spread to their peers. This book is 5 Stars and exceeded expectations. I enjoyed this book and suggest it for the next time you want to read something as unique as this.
Reviewer 8th Grade

Reviewer's Name: Anushka
Awards:
Storm Front
Butcher, Jim
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Storm Break follows Harry Dresden, the only wizard-for-hire in the country, as he investigates a grisly murder that could only be done by dark magic. Along the way, he'll have to juggle the case of an abandoned wife, the demands of his only friend in the force, the pressures of a sentient skull, and the condemnation of a council that wants to end him once and for all.
I didn't give this book three stars because it's a decent book. I gave this book three stars because it does some things really, really well and some things really, really badly. Throughout my reading, my internal rating jumped between one and four stars, so I stuck with three because it was mostly a good book and two stars should be reserved for boring books. And this definitely wasn't boring.
On the good side, I enjoyed the world building. It remains typical enough to the urban fantasy realm to seem cozy without being boring. Every magical creature has the exciting things we're used to, with some extra thrown in for fun, and lots of personality to make up for any stereotypical writing. The creatures and world building sell the danger of the world, making the stakes very high in the first book, something I appreciate. I like the main character, Harry Dresden, because he's a funny guy. I mean funny in that he cracks actually funny jokes, as well as funny as in he doesn't ever think things through and the outcome is always hilarious. I also like how the Harry has a "sad hidden backstory", but its not really hidden or sad because he talks about it so matter-of-factly that you forget how messed up it is in context. I loved the mystery of the novel, even if some twists threw me for a loop. The writing could also be surprisingly emotional for whats meant to be a cynical cop novel, in a way that really makes you sympathize with the twisted situation the protagonist is in, as well as the innocent people wrapped up in it. The ending was very satisfying and climactic and well bought, and really kept me invested until the end. Basically, its a very good urban fantasy novel with a fascinating protagonist and a thrilling story!
Now for the really, really bad stuff. Or just one really, really bad thing. In short: the author of this story has no idea how to write women. Or, he knows how to write women, and he just chooses to do it in the worst way possible. Every single woman in this book is one of three things: desperate for help from the dashing protagonist, incredibly attractive for no reason and really into the protagonist, or a token "strong independent woman" who devolves into one of the other two types within chapters. And I cannot stress how jarring this was. The author can write witty dialogue and fantastical creatures and heart wrenching emotion, but he can't write a single female character without sexualizing or demeaning her in some way. It's like walking through a local art gallery full of beautiful landscapes and self portraits, and then out of the blue there's a two-year-old's finger painting. I could go on for hours about how bad it was, and I really want to, but basically: about half of the women in this book are prostitutes, about half of the women die horribly and helplessly, most of them hit on Dresden and he always assumes its to seduce him for nefarious purposes, and not a single one of them has more than a shred of autonomy, character, or soul. All of that had to go into the main character, who is amazing alone, but whenever he's around woman he feels like a gross power fantasy that I can't sympathize with until about ten pages after he shares a conversation with a female character.
All in all, this book is a frustration. I want to enjoy the world building and fun characters and funny moments and good plot, but every so often a woman is introduced and I have to resist the urge to track the author down and throw the book at his face. If you can suffer through that, there is some great writing to be found! If you can't, I don't blame you.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Eve
The Inheritance Games
Barnes, Jennifer Lynn
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is one of the best books I have ever read! It is an amazing book for tweens and older, with a slight romantic touch to add to the book that mixes very well with the mysterious game the characters play. Inheritance Games is about a teenage girl, Avery Grambs, who grew up with very little money to her name. Soon she learns that she has inherited most of the multi-billionaire, Tobias Hawthorne's wealth and land, and has no connection to the family entirely. At first, her incredible luck might seem extremely fortunate but to keep her newfound wealth she must live with Tobias's remaining complex and tricky family, while solving one last riddle left by Tobias Hawthorne himself, to figure out why she, not the other Hawthorne's, inherited his riches. You will get hooked on this game of affection and jealousy as the elaborate characters figure out what they value more; money or friendship.
I wholeheartedly adored this book! It had so many plot twists and turns so you can never guess what might happen next and it was full of intricate clues and riddles that are soo entertaining and surprised you every time. I picked this book because I wanted a mystery that was more centered around the teenage crowd than the adult theme of missing persons or other crimes and this book did not disappoint! It was so well written and devised, that I truly felt as if I was in the book with Avery and the Hawthorne brothers. I enjoyed the mystery because it was written so well that every time I reread this book I see so many new aspects and clues in the story. It is one of the best mysteries I have read before and it was filled with surprises. The author wrote the book so well and every character was relatable and had so many ups and downs like real people. The emotions and feelings that were put into the characters and the book were interesting and engaging until the end. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone because it will be a great read!

Reviewer's Name: Ella
Awards:
The Lying Game
Ware, Ruth
2 stars = Meh
Review:

In this book, you follow four childhood friends (shown from the perspective of Isa Wilde) as the secrets of their past actions come back to haunt them.
I was intrigued by the premise of the story, but for the most part, the story was pretty boring and predictable. The concept of a lying game in the past was interesting and I was excited to see how would play into the story. The secret about what happened almost 20 years earlier seemed really overplayed to me. What actually happened didn't really seem as much of a big reveal as I thought it would be. The final twist at the end of the book wasn't anything special and I figured it out pretty quickly compared to other stories. The ending was anti-climactic; by the end of the story, I wasn't invested. The characters were fine: originally, they seemed relatable and human for the most part, but as the story progressed, I grew to dislike a couple of the main characters. Their actions seemed abnormal and irritating, and even within the context of the story, I still couldn't get over it. This could have been a better book, but the payoff wasn't there.
Reviewer's Grade: 11

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

The average reviews for this book are lower than usual, but it really surprised me. The story felt like a true story and dystopian and fiction all at once, not to mention the plot twist. The setting of an isolated vacation island set the background for a unique storyline between a few families with dark secrets. I enjoyed the main characters' personalities too, though there were some comments they made about homophobia and racism that were kind of weird and sounded like the author didn't do much research about the LGBTQ+ and POC communities. It was very entertaining still, and I would recommend it if you need a suspenseful story to read quickly.
Grade 11

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
And Then There Were None
Christie, Agatha
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

And Then There Were None is one of the best that I have ever read. I loved watching the characters, especially because of the incredible detail that Agatha Christie used to describe them and their unique personalities. They all seem real to me. The book itself was ingenious, incorporating suspense and making every character a plausible suspect and a possible victim. I found myself turning back pages to get the facts again and again, without having a clue as to who was the murderer. I recommend this book for ages 13+ as all of the details and situations can be extremely hard to process.

Reviewer's Name: Kelsey
When You Reach Me
Stead, Rebecca
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

When You Reach Me is one of my favorite books of all time. It is such a compelling mystery from the perspective of a sixth-grader who is wise for her age. Miranda contemplates theories of time travel and the effect of the past on the future in a light-hearted manner that makes this story impossible to put down. I love every character and reading their dialogue always gets me to think about the importance of kindness and our relationships as humans during such a short time on Earth. If you love a philosophical mystery or are just looking to get out of a reading slump, give this book a try!

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
There's Someone Inside Your House
Perkins, Stephanie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

As an avid Stephanie Perkins reader, this book is not her best work but still worth your time to read. There was ample suspense as Makani Young navigated the unfolding of an active serial killer's crimes in a small town, with a fast pace to not bore readers. Similar to thrillers like One of Us is Lying, I was constantly changing my mind as to who the killer could be. Do we pay attention to Ollie, the typical loner, or even one of Makani's own friends? Unfortunately, the movie adaptation did not do this story justice. Do not waver from trying it out if you stumbled across the movie first! It's not the darkest thriller I've read, but still disturbing enough to introduce a passion for the genre and keep you up at night.
Grade 11

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
Songbirds
Lefteri, Christy
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Songbirds is about the disappearance of domestic workers in Cyprus--women who had no choice but to leave their families in Sri Lanka or Vietnam or the Philippines and find work as maids in the homes of Cyprus's wealthy class. Nisha, whom the story centers on, is a Sri Lankan woman who has faced much loss. She comes to Cyprus, leaving her daughter behind, and becomes a mother figure for Aliki, the daughter of a somber, grieving widow named Petra. Though Nisha has such an impact on the people around her, especially Petra and Aliki, she is merely seen as a maid, overlooked, taken for granted. In a parallel plot line, Yiannis is a poacher who hunts songbirds for a living. He and Nisha have a secret relationship, which would jeopardize everything if discovered by Petra, and when he finally tells Nisha about the poaching, she is deeply disappointed in him, though Yiannis doesn't stop his senseless killing of songbirds. One night, Nisha goes missing. What ensues is a long, agonizing search in which the police refuse to do anything and Petra begins to realize that she relied on Nisha for nearly everything and didn't appreciate her while she was there. Petra and Yiannis team up, determined to find out what happened.
In my opinion, this story could've been told so much better. The metaphor of the songbirds was far too loud and became redundant and irritating. Lefteri could've more effectively woven together the plot lines of Petra and Yiannis without being so blunt with her metaphor. However, I did find it very interesting--and saddening--to learn about the missing domestic workers of Cyprus. Just as in The Beekeeper of Aleppo, Lefteri brings to light real issues that go beyond news coverage and should be talked about but somehow aren't. These maids are just as human as anyone, having sacrificed lives in their home countries for the benefit of their families. I would have enjoyed this novel more if the pacing had been faster and the plot hadn't been so repetitive; the characters also weren't the most likable.
I wouldn't necessary recommend this book, but the premise is worth knowing.

Reviewer's Name: Alexa
One of Us Is Next
McManus, Karen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is the sequal to One of us is lying. In this book, there is a person who would like to continue Simon's legacy. A boy who framed 4 teenagers in detention on his death. But, it's a game of Truth or Dare. You do a crazy dare, like kiss someone or get one of your deepest secrets exposed. It turns out, this is just based on a revenge plan from 2 people, looking to ruin someone's life based off of past incidents.
This book is AMAZING. It was just a good as the first book, if not better. It has a great story line and plot and truly does keep you intrigued the whole time. I loved this book and would rate it a 10/10.

Reviewer's Name: Mackenzie
One of Us is Lying
McManus, Karen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is about 4 highschool students who are in the classroom when another student dies. Since they are the only ones in the room, they are the ones who have to fight to prove that they are innocent and try to get their normal lives back. Throughout the book, each person gets framed at least once, with new evidence. You get a point of view of each person and others on who did it, and why.
This book was AMAZING! It kept me engaged the whole entire time and had me gasping at every plot twist. I know that alot of people have been posting about this book, but it is definitely worth the read. There is also a sequal, called One of us is next. I would rate this book a 10/10.

Reviewer's Name: Mackenzie
Hunting Prince Dracula
Maniscalco, Kerri
2 stars = Meh
Review:

In the second installment to the Stalking Jack the Ripper series, this time we follow Audrey and Thomas to Romania, mainly to escape the grief and memories that London contains, but also to attend one of the best schools of forensic medicine. However, Audrey and Thomas are once again thrown into another murder mystery, this time facing Vlad the Impaler.
Even though the plot of this novel seemed interesting enough, like the first book of this series, I still couldn't find myself connecting to Audrey or Thomas at all. Both of them just seemed like the stereotypical cookie-cutter fantasy romance interests, with no dimension and no personality. While I enjoyed some of the interesting cultural legends and information about Romania, I felt like the novel was going way too slow. I couldn't find myself getting into it, and none of the characters really interested me and kept me focused on the novel. Once I practically forced myself to finish the book, I didn't find myself thinking about the book ever again. There was nothing interesting or unique about the novel and all the characters just seemed like the same characters that I've read about over and over again in the fantasy genre. The murder was also pretty generic and simple to solve, so there wasn't much suspense or build-up. Overall, I could see why some people would like this book, but it wasn't for me.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Michelle
Spy Camp
Gibbs, Stuart
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Spy Camp is the 2nd book in the Spy School series. During the summer, Ben Ripley is called to Spy Camp, with is basically the same thing as Spy School, but outdoors. While he is there, an evil organization called SPYDER offers him a deal. Join them, or be killed. Ben now has his life at stake. So he refuses. He now has to be on his every move. If SPYDER finds him, he knows the consequences. Will Ben be able to outsmart SPYDER again? Or will his vacation end in disaster.

Reviewer's Name: Chase
Lightning Strike
Krueger, William Kent
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Lightning Strike is an excellent thriller. Cork O’Connor lives in his hometown of Aurora. Everything is normal and is going smoothly, until Cork discovers a dead man in the forest. It is deemed as a suicide. But Cork and his father have their own suspicions. Can they uncover the truth before it’s too late? I liked the setting and enjoyed the suspense. I chose this book because the book jacket captured my attention, and I wanted to find out what happens next. Cork O’Connor is curious about what took place, and also is great young sleuth. I appreciate Cork’s determination to solve the mystery. Lightning Strike was a great read and I would highly recommend it.
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Ananth
Spy School
Gibbs, Stuart
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Spy school is about a 12 year old boy named Ben Ripley who has been recruited by the CIA to train to be a spy. The plot (without spoilers) takes place at the CIA Academy of Espionage. Ben can't tell anyone that he is a spy, including his parents. While he is there, he finds out that there is a mole lurking in the shadows of the school. Ben just got his first unofficial mission. Find the mole, find who they're working for, and to try no to be captured. If he succeeds, he will earn the trust of everyone at the academy. If he doesn't, he'll find himself in big trouble.

Reviewer's Name: Chase
Awards:
Last Girl Ghosted
Unger, Lisa
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Last Girl Ghosted was a great read. A young woman named Wren frequently does online dating. She meets a charming young man named Adam. Wren thinks Adam is the perfect match, until he completely goes cold turkey. Wren is baffled and completely heartbroken, until she finds out Adam has done the same exact thing to other women. And not just that, but Adam has a long history of being with women who later go missing. Can Wren quickly find out who Adam really is before it is too late? I chose this book because it’s a thriller and the plot seemed interesting. This book is full of surprises and will keep the reader interested throughout the whole book. Last Girl Ghosted goes in depth about the darkside of online dating and the Internet. I really liked the suspense and the countless cliffhangers. I would highly recommend reading this book.

Reviewer's Name: Ananth
Confessions on the 7:45
Unger, Lisa
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Confessions on the 7:45 was an excellent read. Selena barely makes the 745 train home, when she sits next to a strange woman whom she she makes an instant connection. This is when Selena confessed that her husband is having an affair with the nanny. And the strange woman listens and relates to Selena’s confession. Shortly after this train ride home the nanny goes missing. And a police investigation is launched. Was Selena’s husband involved? Or did does change woman have anything to do with? This book is a gripping novel that focuses on marriage and revenge. I picked this book because the book jacket seemed interesting. Confessions on the 745 is full of plot twists and will keep the reader on the edge of their seat. I really enjoyed the plot twists and the in depth descriptions of the character’s personality’s. I would highly recommend this book.

Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Ananth
Horton Halfpott book jacket
Angleberger, Tom
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Horton Halfpott is a comedy novel about a kitchen boy's life, love, and mystery. Horton Halfpott follows its titular character as he navigates the cruelty of the nobles, a new-found crush, and the investigation of a stolen "Lump". The book's core is its comedy, with a narrator adding to each movement with foreshadowing and direct acknowledgement of the reader. Targeted for kids ages 8-12, the humor is clever but not so much as to confuse a younger audience. Characters are likeable and the main characters are well-developed considering how short the novel is. Although the mystery's conclusion is evident to the reader, watching the detectives' and antagonist's plans in work adds an element of tension to the book, especially during the second half. The only major issue I had while reading was pacing. Most chapters are quite short, and the book could easily be reduced from almost 50 4-5 page chapters to 15 longer chapters. With such short chapters comes some whiplash as certain characters take control of the perspective for a page or two before the reader swaps to a different character. This had some jarring results, especially around the 3/4 mark of the book.

Overall, Horton Halfpott is a great story with some formatting problems holding it back from being a fantastic one. This story is still a worthwhile read for pre-teens, however.

Reviewer's Name: Locke
Stalking Jack the Ripper
Maniscalco, Kerri
2 stars = Meh
Review:

To start off, I would say that I can see why many people enjoy this novel. Following a young woman during the Victorian era in London who studies anatomy and enjoys dissecting cadavers, I can see why this would be interesting to read about, especially since during this era, it was a bit taboo to hear of a woman studying anatomy, much less, dissecting dead bodies. I have to admit that the plot of this novel did intrigue me, especially when I read that somehow, Audrey Rose Wadsworth-- the said woman who has a knack for dissecting, would find herself involved in the case of infamous murderer, Jack the Ripper. However, the characters really made this story fall flat for me. Audrey was pretty much your typical "not like other girls" protagonist, and the author seemed very insistent in enunciating that Audrey was definitely NOT like other girls. This pretty much came in the form of having Audrey being intelligent, snarky, bold, and disliking typical "girlish" topics such as boys and dances and the such. While Audrey may have been a promising character, I really didn't like how the author made traits such as being intelligent or bold seem so unique, as if "other girls" did not carry any of these completely normal characteristics. Even more so, the author made pretty much every other female character in this story (with maybe the exception of one), seem very ditzy and typically "girly" and feminine, utilizing these other girls to make Audrey look better. While Audrey wasn't a character I particularly hated, I didn't really enjoy the way she was written. Adding on, the love interest in this story, Thomas Cresswell, was also boringly generic. Other than helping Audrey solve the murders of Jack the Ripper, Thomas didn't really add much to the story. His character was just as cliche as Audrey's, him being sarcastic, mysterious, and handsome-- not to mention the token tortured backstory he had, which seems very prevalent in many male love interests. I'll also add that Thomas wasn't a character I hated either, he was just a very flat one, and pretty boring to read about. While I've read some novels that also contain love interests with traits like Thomas and liked them, I'll have to say that Thomas was definitely not one of these. I wish the author, while also writing about how snarky and mysterious Thomas is supposed to be, gave him more dimension. Audrey and Thomas both felt like very token characters, ones that we've seen and heard of before, making both of them not really seem like people, and more like a walking stereotype. Overall, while this novel had a intriguing plot, the generic characters made the story fall flat for me.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Michelle