WHY I PICKED IT UP: I remember hearing about this book when Facebook hosted a find-the-word-on-our-fanpage contest, which is a pretty cool premotional idea. In the half hour I spent looking for words, this book made enough of an impression on me that I picked it up when I saw it at the library. It was a YA Mystery, a genre I tend to like. Also, the cover is pretty striking. You can tell from that girl's face that something sinister is going on.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: High-schooler Hartley Featherstone suspects that her boyfriend Josh is cheating on her, so she and her friend Sam go to confront him. But instead of finding him, they find a dead body. Now it looks like Josh is a cheater and a killer--except that he swears he's innocent, and Hartley believes him. Well, about the "killer" part, anyway. With the help of Chase, the head of the school newspaper who has a particular love for black clothing, and Sam, Hartley looks for the real killer. But when she's the one that finds the victims, people start suspecting that the real killer is her.
THE POSITIVE: Gemma is a master of voice. Once you're inside Hartley's head, you're really in the head of a modern-day high schooler. I noticed that she thanked someone for helping her with teen speak, and the research shows. You feel like Hartley is a real person, a teen that you could have a conversation, not at all the creation of Halliday.
I kind of want to put this book in a time capsule. Not only are the phrases modern, but this book makes many references to pop culture, from explicit details (like a recap she gives of a scene from Borat) to hints about modern crazes (like how Hartley's mother is into "Yogalates" and eating soy-everything). It really encapsulates an aspect of pop culture, woven seamlessly into the story.
Even though I figured out who the killer was, I wasn't sure, and that's the best. You never want it to feel like the solution came out of left field, but you don't want to be waiting the entire novel for the protagonists to see what you see. As a mystery, this worked really well.
THE NOT-SO-POSITIVE: I don't really know what Hartley looks like. I'm guessing she's blonde because Chase calls her "blondie." She calls herself not very athletic, but later mentions a relative describing her build (disparagingly) as "athletic." Her friend Sam is also blonde, but I don't know how she differs from Hartley. Way more description was given to pretty much every other person Hartley came in contact with. Is this so the readers feel like they can be Hartley more easily? Maybe, but what about Sam? I was picturing the Sam from iCarly pretty much the whole time. And yes, that means I pictured her boyfriend as Freddie.
Josh proves to be kind a superficial jerk. So, I was always kind of wondering why Hartley liked him in the first place ("he's hot" is not good enough) and why he liked her. It becomes clear that he thinks more with the brain in his pants, but Hartley's above that, so what was their relationship founded on for the years that it was? I never got an idea that there could have been any real substance between them, so I wasn't sure how they'd been together for so long. How did they meet? What did they share?
Parts of this did feel kind of cliche as well, like the Chastity Club President actually being a slut (Glee, anyone?) but that's a more minor note.
OVERALL RATING: Recommendable. Despite all the blood, it was light and quirky, and I wanted to keep reading it. Sam and Chase were really likeable, and Hartley wasn't bad, either. I believe the sequel comes out April 24, 2012, and I'd like to read it when it does. This was a fun read, and that's probably all it asks to be.