The Body in the Woods by April Henry
I had to force myself to finish this one. The kids read more as 12/13-year-olds than the 16-year-olds they’re supposed to be. Actually, the whole book read more as a middle-grade novel than YA. It just had “serious teen subjects” thrown in. I didn’t connect with any of the characters. Alexis comes across as dumb and stubborn for refusing help with her mentally ill mother, Nick seems like a little kid, and Ruby is “eccentric” to the point where I agree with her parents that she needs a therapist. Neither Alexis’ mother’s condition nor Ruby’s Asperger’s (never stated as such, but pretty obvious) came across as genuine, but rather as a sort of “Hollywood version” of mental illness/autism spectrum. Aside from all that, the mystery was dumb, the culprit was obvious, the kids jump to dumb conclusions and solve everything mostly through helpful coincidence. The police are irritatingly stupid, which is a huge pet peeve of mine when it comes to mystery novels. Also, the author kept referring to technology as though she were a time traveler from the eighteen-hundreds: “she pulled. . . her cellphone out, then typed his number into a text program. In the message line, Alexis typed [her message].” Seriously?! My god, just say “Alexis texted him.”
The Secrets of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer
Zero stars. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. I spent the entirety of TSoLG wanting to slap the shit out of Lily. She’s an awful, judgmental little bitch. She’s also a smug, pretentious wannabe goth, who whines about being soooo misunderstood and unique, while looking down on everyone around her. The mystery was just…ugh. Within like, the last ten pages of the book a huge plot twist occurs – surprise! a totally unexpected character is the murderer, making the whole novel full of investigation that came before it utterly pointless. TSoLG also falls into the “all Christians are evil, controlling hypocrites” trope, which I found offensive and annoying.
Latitude Zero by Diana Renn
By the time I got to this one, it felt like it had been ages since I’d enjoyed a book I was reading! Tessa is a great protagonist: driven and goal-oriented; a good person, but not perfect. She makes mistakes and gets called out on them, then strives to do better. I enjoyed her self-reflection and personal growth throughout the novel. (Very refreshing after a series of irritating protagonists!) Diana Renn really built a set of characters that felt like they had history to them – I had to check to make sure I hadn’t picked up a later book in a series! Latitude Zero is fast-paced, and the mystery has plenty of twists and red herrings. I would love to read more about these characters.
Very Bad Things by Susan McBride
I don’t really know how to rate this. It wasn’t a very good book, but I didn’t hate reading it? I liked that this book is told in three points of view: Katie: the main character, her boyfriend Mark, and her friend Tessa. Unfortunately, the book is too short and too fast-moving to give them any real character development. I liked the characters. I liked the mystery. Everything gets really bizarre towards the climax of the story. I think the brevity of the story is its biggest flaw; everything is glossed over, and there’s very little time spent on investigation of the mystery.
Stone Cove Island by Suzanne Myers
I really enjoyed the New England Gothic atmosphere of this book. It’s a pretty quick read, with a pleasant, if not super-compelling, main character. I wasn’t totally happy with the way the mystery ended, but the investigation was fun. I think Stone Cove Island would have benefitted from extra length, as the characters occasionally made big leaps of logic to keep the story moving. I might have given it only three stars, but the wonderfully small-town-creepy atmosphere definitely bumped it up to four.