Morning fellow book-a-sauruses! Or should that be book-a-sauri? Only if you’ve been reading too much in the dark…HaHAA, see what I did there? The funnies have already started! Today I will be providing commentary on two YA new releases that are light, funny and the perfect thing for cheering up an otherwise frown-worthy day. One is a cosy mystery (well, cosy enough, I suppose) and the other features a little bit of paranormal and I received both digital copies from their respective publishers via Netgalley – thanks! So set your emotionality regulators to “mildly amused” and let’s get this show on the road!
First up we have Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey. (Incidentally, isn’t that a great surname? I think so. Well done on that, Fantaskey family!). Buzz Kill features high-school newspaper journalist Millie Ostermeyer as she attempts to unravel the mystery surrounding the murder of Hollerin’ Hank Killdare, her school’s almost-universally disliked football coach. Unfortunately, due to his status as one of the least popular people around the school, Millie’s list of possible suspects is quite extensive and even includes her dad, the football team’s assistant coach. As Millie tries to solve the mystery and win a Pacemaker (high school journalism’s highest accolade), she keeps running into mysterious (and handsome) quarterback Chase Albright and perky, annoying cheerleader and editor of the school newspaper, Vivienne Fitch. Why do these two seem to be tangled up in every aspect of the crime? If Millie can’t find a lead in this mystery soon, it may be that someone very close to her ends up taking the rap. So with the help of Nancy Drew, a good friend and a stinky but loveable dog, Millie is going to crack this case…or possibly die trying.
* you despise Phys Ed class and the many and varied humiliations that accompany it
* you think that being kicked in the backside while wearing a honeybee mascot costume could feasibly be perceived as cause to commit murder
* you’ve been waiting for the teenage Miss Marple to come along, although without the knitting and felt hats (I know I have!)
As soon as I read the blurb for this one the question arose as to why there aren’t more cosy-style murder mysteries aimed at this age group. It’s such an engaging genre and Buzz Kill is a great example of it. There was a distinctly light tone used throughout the book and Millie, our narrator, has a dry, self-deprecating humour that really colours the telling of the story. All the characters you would expect are there: the unpopular murder victim who had wronged plenty of people, the over-zealous-but-not-very-accurate small town police investigator, the popular kids who were humiliated by the coach, the disengaged school principal…it’s your classic whodunnit tale set in a context very familiar to young people and readers of YA.
There’s also a bit of romantic undercurrent to the story with the tall, dark, handsome and mysterious newcomer, Chase Albright being the focus of Millie’s investigative attentions. As an adult reader and fan of traditional and cosy murder mysteries, I enjoyed the familiar unfolding of the plot and the twist at the end was well-timed and unexpected. The reveal of the eventual murder weapon is tinged with a bit of slapstick as well and made a very satisfying finish to the book.
I did find that my attention wandered a little towards the beginning of the last third of the book, as the focus shifted more to the developing friendship between Millie and Chase. Although the mystery surrounding Chase had been set up early in the book, the eventual reveal about his place in the grander scheme of things didn’t really surprise me and I don’t think it will surprise many readers. This didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the story for me, but simply made that section drag a little.
I’m very happy to have read Buzz Kill and I hope Fantaskey or other YA authors (and publishers!) take a chance on more cosies like this one specifically for a YA audience. Buzz Kill was released on May the 6th.
Now onto the “funny ha-ha”…
In Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski we are introduced to homeroom 10B, who, after receiving their flu shots at school one day, develop the ability to hear other people’s thoughts. While for some individuals, this seems like a dream come true and the perfect opportunity to gain the upper hand in their studies or relationships, for others they would like nothing more than a complete return to normal before they end up accidentally overhearing, for example, any more of their parents’ amorous thoughts. As the days pass and the teens get used to being exposed to every possible overshare that one could think of (quite literally), some secrets emerge that would ordinarily have never seen the light of day and certain members of the group find themselves subjected to the ethical scrutiny of their peers. When it becomes apparent that the authorities may be on to 10B’s special abilities, each of the “Espies” must make a choice – do they give up their telepathy for the sake of their health and sanity, or do they hold on to the quality that has turned them into (slightly) super humans?
Read it if:
* you have recently taken to wearing a stylish, thought-blocking tinfoil hat every time you leave the house because you suspect the teenagers that loiter in the stairwells of your building have telepathic abilities
* you were reluctant to share airspace with some of your grade ten classmates, let alone brain space
*you’ve ever been in a situation in which you’ve been unutterably grateful that no one could find out what you REALLY think about something
I love a book that’s an out-of-the-box surprise. Particularly when that surprise is a pleasant one. I thoroughly enjoyed Don’t Even Think About It. When I initially read the blurb, I wasn’t 100% sure that this would be to my tastes but I took a chance and I’m glad to say that I was rewarded with an original and highly amusing imaginative tale that blends typical teen angst and relationship drama with ESP to create a very appetising story-smoothie indeed.
The first thing that drew me in (and threw me off a bit, admittedly) was the use of a collective voice to tell the story. See, by the end of the tale, the teens have become so used to hearing each others’ thoughts that they have adopted a sort of hive-mind, and this is reflected in the narration. At the beginning this was mildly confusing but within a chapter or two I had it sorted and by the end I felt that it contributed to my experience of the book as original and a stand-out from others in the paranormal/romance YA genre. After looking at other reviewers’ thoughts, this point stood out as a negative for some, so I suspect it might be a personal preference thing. As a fan of dialogue-driven writing (as my Fi50 entries will attest!), the multi-character approach to narration appealed greatly to me.
I did have a few troubles in the first half of the book keeping some of the female characters straight, as a couple tended to blend into each other by having similar shy aspects to their personalities. Other characters like Mackenzie, BJ and Pi stood out as strong voices in the narrative and really drove the story forward. One drawback of having such a large ensemble cast of characters is that not many of them get time in the limelight and therefore some characters came off as a bit two-dimensional. Whether this was intentional, as the book is the first in a series and there will be time later to flesh them out, I’m not sure but I can see how this would annoy some readers. It certainly didn’t bother me however – I felt that the movement between characters added to the light tone of the book and allowed the plot, and the humour, to flow more freely.
As I said, this is the first book in a planned series, but I feel it works perfectly well as a standalone. If you enjoy your YA light, with plenty of funny dialogue and embarrassing situations, a bit of teen angst and romance, and just enough paranormal to keep things interesting, give this one a go.
Don’t Even Think About It was released on May 1st.
Until next time,