Vivian Divine is Dead by Lauren Sabel
I enjoyed this much more than I expected to. Some elements of the mystery are somewhat obvious, but the plot and characters were enjoyable enough that I was willing to overlook that. The setting – rural Mexico during the Day of the Dead celebration – adds a unique and colorful atmosphere. The villain was incredibly unsettling. Though Vivian’s romance with Nick was pretty much bog-standard for YA, the author wrote it well enough that I cared about the bittersweet ending for them.
Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless by Liz Czukas
I waffled between three and four stars for this. The story and characters are cute, but the mystery is obviously just thrown in there to get all the characters in the same place. I gave it four because I enjoyed it anyway. Our main character, Chloe, and her teenage coworkers are kept after work on suspicion of stealing Christmas donation money, and end up learning a lot about each other in the process. It’s a quick, character-driven piece, and I thought everyone got a good set of faults and strengths. It’s also a very true portrayal of what it’s like to work retail around Christmas!
Prep School Confidential by Kara Taylor
I loved this book! I put the sequel on hold the second I finished it. Prep School Confidential moved at a great pace, and let both Anne (the main character) and the reader get to know the murder victim before her death. When she’s killed, it’s easy to understand why Anne is moved to investigate. There’s a good cast of characters, and the author skillfully juggles a gallery of suspects and red herrings. I could have done without the love triangle, particularly since one corner is a guy with known anger and violence issues. (Seriously, girls, that’s a huge red flag.) Thankfully, the romance is woven in with care, and never overshadows the plot.
The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison
Objectively, the book is well-written, with an interesting plot and unique characterization. Subjectively, I did not like it. Penelope, known as Lo, is the main character, a teenage girl with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder and hoarding tendencies. I knew I was going to be overly judgmental about this book, because I have OCD. It runs in my family. I identified with her symptoms, and thought that the author either has personal experience with the disease, or did great research. However, I hated that Lo was adamantly anti-medication or therapy and showed little interest in getting better. I don’t think it was intentional on the part of the author, but I thought it was a bad message to send. PSA: If you are suffering from a mental illness, medication and/or therapy works. Don’t let your fears get in the way of improving your quality of life. Things can and will get better. PSA over. Outside of that, I thought Lo’s methods of investigation were sketchy at best, and I despised Flynt, the love interest. I can’t even pinpoint why. He just skeeved me out.
Vanished by E.E. Cooper
This is a good book to read if you’re looking for diversity in YA. The main character, Kalah, is a mixed-race, anxiety disordered bisexual. I was a little skeptical at first, because it seemed like the author was throwing every minority characteristic into the mix that she could, but upon reading, it all blended successfully into a whole, rounded person. That said, Vanished wasn’t my favorite book. I wasn’t quite feeling the love triangle (big surprise for me, right?). Kalah, like Lo in The Butterfly Clues is obsessive-compulsive, and I thought it was handled a little more positively here. I was spoiled to a certain plot development by accident, which reduced the tension of the book, so that was my fault.The plot is not totally wrapped up by the end, as I believe this is #1 in a series. I didn’t like it enough the continue with the series, but I’ll still recommend this book to people who like series like Pretty Little Liars, or who are looking for a narrator with a unique POV.
I’ve got a number of Children’s and YA mysteries scattered around my house, so there’ll be more quick reactions posts about them soon!