Framed for a stranger's near-fatal overdose at a party, blackmailed into finding a mysterious flash drive everyone in school seems anxious to suppress, and pressured by his shady best friend to throw an upcoming game, high school soccer player Charlie Dixon spends a frantic week trying to clear his name, win back the girl of his dreams, and escape a past that may be responsible for all his current problems.
Beth says 3 Stars...
I like the idea of this book quite a bit more than its execution. The story plays out in a community where performance-based teaching fully controls the school system. Not only that, but the high school cliques are like Mean Girls on steroids; the groups protect one another and upperclassmen can't speak with an underclassman without permission from the group leader. This is the high pressure world where the action unfolds. The book tries to frame itself as an intense mystery with a dash of thriller and does it somewhat successfully. Again, I had a problem with the pacing of the plot. Beginning with a bit more information about the flash drive and why it's so important would really have helped. It's hard to care when the players and the main driving force are kept mostly secret. Another issue was the intricacy of the plot. It felt like Skilton tried to do far too much within the story and tied herself up with various plot threads. Keeping with one main problem and applying more effort to centering the the book on it would have helped with the pacing and made it better. There were definitely clever moments that hinted at potential for a better written mystery in the future.
I didn't particularly like Charlie or find him a compelling character. I've read about characters I loathed, but if they're complex and interesting likability becomes secondary. Charlie didn't capture my imagination, especially because he alternated between aggressive and whiny, with brief flashes of wit and fun. The best part was when he let his inner nerd shine and made a few references that got a smile from me. The secondary characters were just as bad or worse than Charlie. The irritating Saint Ellie could do no wrong in Charlie's eyes and lacked all dimension. She existed primarily as a projection of her perfection from Charlie's mind. The bad boy friend, Ryder, was perhaps the most interesting of the characters in the book. I wanted more from him because he felt more complex than anyone else. Instead of being confused and a pawn in the game, he had layers of motivations.
Overall, the book suffered from an overabundance of ambition and a less-than-stellar main character/narrator. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't particularly good either. It's fine for someone who really enjoys high school mysteries, but if this isn't your prefered genre I'd skip it.
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