A YA novel tells the story of a high school sleuth on the trail of a mysterious vigilante.
Ridgeview High School newspaper reporter Owen Dinsmore comes across noted bully Trevor Newsome right after the brute falls down the school stairs. Owen asks who pushed him, but Trevor is only able to say “Ro” (or is it “Robe”?) before losing consciousness. Nearby, Owen notices Erica Litvak, “probably the smartest student in the whole school and someone he found irresistibly attractive. Did she push Trevor down the stairs?” It falls to the new principal, Wilma Allan—who happens to be Owen’s aunt—to find Trevor’s attacker, and she decides to delegate the job to none other than her investigative journalist of a nephew. Owen already suspects that he saw Michael DeVere at the top of the staircase, the same student whom Trevor tormented with a swirly a few weeks before. The only other thing Owen has to go on is the fact that, when Trevor wakes up at the hospital, he identifies his attacker as a robot with a big metal arm. Owen begins to investigate the school’s robotics program, but mostly he’s excited for an excuse to spend more time with Erica. She agrees to accompany him to the Center of Science and Discovery, and she even gives him a kiss at the end of the date. Owen suspects that Michael may be obsessed with Erica. But the students don’t seem capable of building a robot strong enough to push Trevor down the steps. Then another bully in school is attacked, and this time the culprit is caught in the act: a foot-tall robot wearing a cardboard sign that reads “The Bullybuster.” Could a robot really be responsible for all the trouble? And who built it? And why?
Cormany’s (Fast-Pitch Love, 2014) prose is colorful and generally light, replete with all the joys and anxieties of adolescence: “That’s when it hit him. What’s Erica’s phone number? He forgot to ask her! Despair punched him in the stomach like an iron fist. How stupid and careless of him!” While the premise sets up Owen as a hallway-wise junior gumshoe out to solve a ridiculous crime, the book’s atmosphere is more sincere than jokey, and the pacing is actually rather staid. The author uses the page space to skillfully build up his characters, and it is their relationships that drive the story more than the machinations of the plot. Some of the teenage boys talk like old men—Owen at one point claims to have “plenty of dough” to buy ice cream while his friend asks him if he’s “going with Erica now”—but Ridgeview is recognizable enough to draw readers in. Apart from a somewhat tone-deaf evocation of the Holocaust to explain one student’s personal aversion to bullying, the novel provides a fun take on the bully revenge fantasy that YA readers should enjoy.
An entertaining adventure with a mystery at the center.