“’You want things to be right. Want to help people. You stick your nose in their business and don’t know what to do with what you find out. Sometimes you see you’re doing more harm than good…You hold things to yourself. Things you should tell someone else. You always think you know what’s best so you don’t get the perspective you need. Your secrecy causes problems.’”
I picked up this book by random, one day at the library. I needed something light to read, and in that effect, it worked well enough. Coming off a book like the Great Gatsby needs something to bring you back to reality. But I probably shouldn’t have chosen a YA, even if it won the Edgar award for Best YA Mystery.
See, there isn’t any real depth to this novel. Didn’t expect much anyway, since it clocks in at under 200pgs. But what I thought Price did best was his character exploration. Is the character’s actions always right? Well no. If he’s just plain stupid, then the reader will most likely put the book down. Or at least I do. Gabe, on the other hand, had reasons for being “stupid.” I don’t have to agree with his reasoning, but can understand why he chose his actions.
On top of that, Price explores the consequences of one’s actions. This book is an interrogation. The framing narrative is the most unique I’ve ever seen. And beginning off, we as the reader know that Gabe is in hot water. We know that “he could have stopped two deaths.” The book even begins with a funeral.
As the story progresses, the tone gets darker, the plot more mature. This surprised me from a YA. I’m glad to see authors in that genre are beginning to shy away from the glittering brightness of young innocence. That may not be exactly great for really young readers, but for the older teenagers who only stick to this niche.
As I said about character development, the stupid narrator, Gabe, is justified some in his actions. But as we see at the end, it was all for nothing. His actions actually did more harm than good. And the mother, who has connections to the law, is a sniveling mess of mistakes and is trying too hard to be “strong.” Yes, my life is my own, but my child is my life. She contradicted herself too many times and this resulted in a very unlikeable character.
And racism tries to be the center of the story, but we see actually very little of it. Yes, there’s a flier and dead dog in the mix, but nothing real substantial to make this the focus of the book. Before you jump to conclusions, the author at the end of this book cited racism as the driving inspiration. Yeah, I don’t see it. There was more cult-like atmosphere than racism.
The creepy stalking scene threw me off as well, even if the second time had good intentions. Did I mention this is a book riddled with taboos and questions? That’s probably what draws in older readers.
All in all, the book feels stronger than a YA, even if the writing is dumbed down a lot. The characters are surprisingly well rounded, (Okay, the narrator is.) and the mystery had a few twists in store. I enjoyed the brisk read, but it holds not sustenance.