An angry teen must clear himself of murder in Harker’s YA debut.
Adrenalin is Mitch Blais’ drug of choice. It keeps him away from the other substances enjoyed by his high school peers, but it comes with problems all its own. For instance, when someone baits him or disrespects his nerdy best friend, Charlie, Mitch may be inclined to throw a punch. When the fight turns against him, Mitch may accidentally push his opponent into a campfire. When the cops show up to stop the party, Mitch may opt to run for it. And when a cop tries to apprehend him, Mitch may respond by kicking her in the chest. It’s the adrenaline that makes him do these things. Mitch believes it will come in handy next year, when he graduates from high school and joins the Marines. His goal in life is to serve in Afghanistan and fight against the people he blames for his father’s death: “He wanted to make his dad proud by avenging his death. He wanted to go straight into the infantry in Afghanistan and seek revenge against the Muslims who had hurt his father.” When his probation officer, Mr. Rooney, warns Mitch that if he keeps getting into trouble he’s more likely to end up in prison orange than Marine Corps blues, Mitch responds with the typical threats and profanity. Therefore, when Mr. Rooney is found murdered in his apartment, it’s no surprise that the cops turn to Mitch as their primary suspect. He’s sent to await his trial at a menacing rehabilitation center where inmates have been known to disappear. If Mitch can’t uncover the truth of the crime and prove his innocence, it’s not only a military career that he’ll forsake, but the rest of his life. Harker writes in quick, propulsive prose that keeps the pages turning, and he has a knack for writing action sequences like chases and fights. However, it’s when the movement slows and more cerebral scenes are required that the story falters. Harker does a serviceable job depicting the opaque, inarticulate anger of youth, but sometimes that opaqueness and inarticulation cloud out plot logic and character motivation. Though Mitch is forced to confront some of his own demons and expand his narrow worldview, many of the other characters are a bit too flat to remain long in the reader’s mind.
A fast-paced teen mystery that mimics the confusion of youth.