by Holly Jackson
I might seem like the ideal student: homework always in early, every extra credit and extracurricular I can get my hands on, the good girl and the high achiever. But I realized something just now: it’s not ambition, not entirely. It’s fear. Because I don’t know who I am when I’m not working, when I’m not focused on or totally consumed by a task. Who am I between the projects and the assignments, when there’s nothing to do? I haven’t found her yet and it scares me. Maybe that’s why, for my senior capstone project this year, I decided to solve a murder.
This was a nifty mystery with great likable characters I really cared about. And, just as important, clever and engaging writing and dialogue. It was really fun. Very Veronica Mars.
5 years ago Andie Bell, a pretty and popular high school senior, was murdered by her boyfriend who commits suicide within 24 hours. His confession was on his phone, and her blood was under his fingernails. He asked his friends to lie about his whereabouts at the time of the murder. It was cut and dried. Except Pip, our heroine, doesn’t buy it. Sal Singh was just too nice to be a murderer. As her senior project, she decides to re-examine the case and hopefully prove him innocent.
Although the focus is on the sleuthing, clues, and puzzle, we also get to know and like Pip’s friends, her family, and her partner in crime-solving, Sal’s brother, Ravi. As all of the witnesses, family, and persons of interest are interviewed, many secrets are revealed and shocking revelations abound. As the interviews are recorded and the evidence and clues mount up, the reader knows no more and no less than Pip and Ravi. Everything is presented to the reader, including Pip’s speculations and theories. In short, despite its modern trappings and current social concerns, it is, at its heart, an old-fashioned classic murder mystery. And also as in a classic murder mystery, the detective was a lot smarter than I was. The one time I thought I caught on to something that Pip and Ravi had missed, it turned out to be a red herring. I was fooled and shocked by turn, and none of my #1 suspects were guilty. Of murder.
Well into the last half of the book, we have two big reveals, and a couple of sighs of relief. But we’re still not done. The final 20% of the book is surprise after surprise. But everything made sense. At least when some things seemed implausible, an attempt was made to explain. I appreciated that. It was quite a ride and culminates in an exciting conclusion and satisfactory “two months later” wrap-up.
This is the first of a trilogy and I want more!
As an addendum, this novel was set in Connecticut, and I had no clue until a one-word slip up at the end that the author was British and I was reading an Americanized version of the original. It is a YA, so I guess they thought American teens wouldn’t get British cultural references and expressions? Or places? They did that to Harry Potter too, except for settings. I’m glad to see the second and third books are set in England. Good for them. Hopefully it’s the same version word-wise too. I’m interested in what University Pip is going to because I know it’s not the American one of the first book.
May 27, 2022