The Blurb On The Back:
You are cordially invited to tell the truth, or face the consequences.
One year ago, there was a party. At the party, someone died. Until now no one has told the truth about what happened.
Tonight, the five survivors arrive at an isolated mansion expecting to compete in a contest with a $50,000 prize.
Nobody questions the odd, rather exclusive invitation until it’s too late …
Five arrived, but not all can leave. Will the truth set them free? Or will their lies destroy them all?
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
12 months ago in the small town of Fallen Oaks Shane Ferrick died in a car crash after attending a Christmas party. It seemed an open and shut case – he’d been drinking and taken another student’s car, losing control on the road and crashing into a tree.
– Juniper Torres – an A grade student who was on course to become Valedictorian and head to medical school on a full scholarship before Shane’s death;
– Ruby Valentine – red-haired, pale and beautiful she drives all the boys at school crazy but her family has been struggling ever since her father disappeared over a year and she dreams of escaping to Julliard to become an actress;
– Parker Addison – a trust fund kid whose father is part of the Fallen Oaks elite but who only wants to get back together with Ruby who split with him after Shane’s death;
– Brett Carmichael – Parker’s best friend, body guard and enforcer is the son of a boxing champion and ballerina who was heading for college on a boxing scholarship until something happened on the night of Shane’s death that’s meant he gave the sport up for good; and
– Gavin Moon – a would-be journalist who’s always wanted to be part of the ‘in crowd’ and has a crush on Juniper and who is keeping.a secret about what happened to Shane at the party,
have been invited to a mansion on the outskirts of town by a scholarship foundation to compete in a murder mystery evening with the winner walking away with $50,000.
But it isn’t long before they realise that something else is going on – whoever’s organised this event knows that they all had something to do with Shane’s death and they’re determined to get answers, even if that means killing to get them …
Chelsea Pitcher’s YA murder mystery is THE BREAKFAST CLUB meets CLUEDO but for me the prose was overwrought and purple, the plot relies both on contrivance and implausibility while the characters are little more than broad brush caricatures who behave in ways that require you to suspend disbelief (while one character could be cut without making any difference to the overall read) such that I found the book to be a chore to get through.
I picked this up because I’m on a YA murder mystery kick at the moment and thought that the blurb on the back sounded interesting.
Unfortunately, I had problems buying into this story almost from the start because only an out-and-out idiot would believe that a scholarship fund wants to give $50,000 to the winner of a murder mystery evening, the contestants of which are all turn out to be people you just happen to know from school. The fact that the character who does believe this – Juniper – is supposedly a star student who has absolutely no other way of getting funding for college because she had a bad couple of months after Shane died meant that I was already giving her side eye and the idea that she thinks it’s all on the level because she googled the supposed scholarship made me snort out loud.
It goes further down hill with the introduction of the other characters – Parker (who screams nasty creeper from the get go), Ruby (the drama queen with the abused past), Brett (the muscle with the heart of gold and a tragic backstory) and then Gavin (who wants to be a journalist and popular and that’s about it because he’s unconscious for the majority of the book and brings nothing to the proceedings when he is awake). None of these teenagers ring true and it’s not helped by the fact that, for me, Pitcher’s writing style is pretty purple and heavily reliant on overblown similes and melodramatic metaphors.
Pitcher splits the narration between each of the teenagers, filling in the backstory and their relationship to Shane Ferrick as they go. Unfortunately it takes a while for Shane to emerge on the page and when he does, Pitcher sells him as being like a manic pixie dream boy – unbelievably sensitive and, of course, instantly attracted to the vivacious and apparently alluring Ruby despite the fact that he himself has a tragic backstory. The fact that he is so sensitive and so understanding and so tragically doomed from the start, again made it difficult to believe in him and his apparent disregard for the love triangle with the rich and manipulative Parker didn’t ring true.
The presence of Shane’s twin, Brianna (who has zero build up or characterisation) is a heavy handed plot set-up and that linked in with another problem I had with the book, which is the total lack of suspense of tension because every twist is signalled well in advanced. As a result when the truth starts to emerge about what happened the night Shane died, so much of it depends on coincidence and implausible developments that the revelations carry zero impact.
Ultimately, I found this book difficult to wade through and more than a little silly and I can’t say that I’d rush to read Pitcher’s other work on the strength of this as it just doesn’t seem to be my thing.