Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? (Goodreads)
It all begins by grouping together five high school students in detention, being punished by a technophobic teacher who caught them each with a phone in their bag during class. The five of them are stuck with each other, forming an unlikely bunch that are made to fit the high school stereotypes of princess, nerd, rebel, jock and outsider. This outsider is Simon, who has been running an exposé online blog that has become notorious for revealing people’s deepest, darkest secrets, and always prints the truth. However, none of them could have predicted that Simon would die that afternoon, suffering a severe allergic reaction after drinking from the water cooler in the detention room.
Of course, being the only ones in the room at the time, the other four are prime suspects for murder, as it is discovered that peanut oil was purposefully put into the cup. It doesn’t help that Simon’s blog was due to publish damning articles about each of them that same night. This becomes a major problem for Bronwyn, class nerd and all round good girl, as any indication of a bad record could harm her chances of getting into Yale. Then there’s Nate, the bad boy who has already had an arrest for selling drugs and could well end up inside if they find out he’s still dealing. And princess Addy, who has been dating one of the most popular guys in school could find herself out in the cold if he finds out she’s not as perfect as she appears. Lastly there’s Cooper, the baseball star practically guaranteed a sports scholarship, but what secret had Simon really found out about him?
Each person in the classroom that day had an identifiable motive for killing Simon, but each of them knows it wasn’t them, even if they have their doubts about each other. Bronwyn in particular becomes fixated on solving the case, striking up an unlikely partnership with Nate along the way, seeing past his bad boy reputation to the vulnerability that lies beneath. They both know that Nate’s record and lack of social standing will lead to him being used as the natural scapegoat, and Bronwyn becomes determined not to let that happen. Likewise, Addy and Cooper may be worried about their reputations to begin with, but soon they too want to get to the bottom of this, and find out why someone wants to frame the four of them for murder.
I was absolutely hooked on this book from page one, with the alternating perspectives between the four of them each drawing me in further to the mystery. I liked each character and how they were all different and yet still relatable, with each having a familiar teenage uncertainty that you can empathise with right from the start. They might be stylised on high school stereotypes, but they break their respective moulds in the way they have been characterised by McManus, as I found each one compelling and was dying to know what secrets they could be hiding, let alone if any of them could actually be responsible for what happened.
I think that if I had to choose then Bronwyn would have been my favourite character and the one I could associate with the most. She feels under pressure from her parents to perform well at school, and to follow in their footsteps at Yale. She also feels the weight of her conscience and has been living in fear of someone finding out her secret, knowing that she should have done the right thing long before now. She has accepted her fate, whatever it may be, and is now determined to make sure Nate doesn’t pay the price for someone else’s crime. He has always had a soft spot for Bronwyn, not that he’d ever tell her, and knows full well that they will try and make him out to be the killer. All he has been trying to do is make ends meet, and he tries to give off the impression that he doesn’t really care what happens to him, even though he is slowly lowering his barriers when it comes to Bronwyn.
As for Addy, she has been so dependent on her boyfriend that she has failed to see how he gradually chipped away at her, shaping her into the ideal girlfriend that he wanted. It ranges from small things such as telling her how to wear her hair, to bigger things like deciding where they go and when. Without him, she is no longer sure who she is, but I admired her inner strength and steely resolve to become her own person and not care what anyone thinks of her anymore. Cooper is a little slower at finding this sense of self, preferring to bluff his way out of the accusations and stay silent whenever anyone asks him. This is because he is hiding a deeper secret that he wants to stay private, being scared of opening himself up to the looks and comments which are sure to follow. Nevertheless, he supports Addy when everyone else gives her the cold shoulder, proving that his heart is in the right place and that he can be depended upon.
I grew to love the entire cast of characters, and the way in which this mystery is solved piece by piece. Each perspective advances the plot and helps us to learn more about their lives and any interaction they might have had with Simon, as well as featuring snippets from the mysterious Tumblr blog that starts up following his death, revealing all their unpublished secrets that had been waiting to go live. The way the tension builds up is slow and subtle, until you just have to know what really happened that day, and find out what will happen to each character now their truths are out in the open. This is a stellar example of young adult literature and I couldn’t be more excited for McManus’ next novel to follow this stunning debut.
An exceptional debut novel with a brilliant sense of character, this book will blow you away and leave you wanting more. The mystery is all-engrossing and I could barely put the book down until I had read every last page, with the ending being well written and satisfying given the increasing tension. I loved every character, and have put Karen McManus straight to the top of my most watched authors list.