A teenager tries to clear her mute brother’s name when he is accused of murdering the local high-school baseball coach.
Hope Long already had a laundry list of problems before her autistic brother Jeremy was arrested for murder: an abusive, alcoholic mother, a run-down house and no social life to speak of. But true to her name, Hope isn’t letting any of that get in the way of playing amateur detective. Enlisting the help of school outsider T.J. and crush object Chase, who conveniently is also the son of the local sheriff, she looks for evidence that proves selectively mute Jeremy couldn’t have killed the coach he admired and loved. In a tearjerking denouement, Hope reveals what she has learned, resulting in an ending that will surprise no one. While the premise of this overly earnest psychological thriller will intrigue some readers, it suffers from slow pacing and a secondary cast of one-dimensional characters. Hope doesn’t even begin detecting until nearly 100 pages in, and her constant recollections of her brother’s selfless past actions make him appear perfect rather than real. In addition, the mean parents, bumbling defense lawyer and preening prosecutor all play to type, their characters flat.
Pass up this one for one of Judy Blundell’s or Kathryn Miller Haines’ whip-smart girl-centered mysteries instead. (Mystery. 13 & up)