GENTLEMEN

Underachiever Micheal finds that art imitates life a little too closely when his friend Tommy leaves school in a fit of anger and doesn’t return for days. The timing of Tommy’s disappearance coincides with the beginning of an English class unit on Crime and Punishment. Due to an unusual introduction to the book, Micheal and his friends Bones and Mixer start to believe that their English teacher, Mr. Haberman, is responsible for Tommy’s disappearance and possibly his death. As he reads the book, Micheal cultivates the idea of Haberman’s guilt. In violent Dostoevskyian fashion, the three boys take action against Haberman and are subsequently punished both by prison and guilt. Micheal’s practiced, smart-yet-slacker voice is authentic but also uneven; there are times when the author, not Micheal, is describing his surroundings. A few subplots involving meeting girls and the changing nature of the boys’ friendship add some realism but are ultimately unimportant. The boys’ immediate, assured suspicion of Haberman’s complicity in Tommy’s disappearance is frightening and realistic, but Tommy’s return and his reasons for leaving are a letdown, told and not shown. (Mystery. 15 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-545-09749-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2009

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Only marginally intriguing.

REDEMPTION PREP

In a remote part of Utah, in a “temple of excellence,” the best of the best are recruited to nurture their talents.

Redemption Preparatory is a cross between the Vatican and a top-secret research facility: The school is rooted in Christian ideology (but very few students are Christian), Mass is compulsory, cameras capture everything, and “maintenance” workers carry Tasers. When talented poet Emma disappears, three students, distrusting of the school administration, launch their own investigation. Brilliant chemist Neesha believes Emma has run away to avoid taking the heat for the duo’s illegal drug enterprise. Her boyfriend, an athlete called Aiden, naturally wants to find her. Evan, a chess prodigy who relies on patterns and has difficulty processing social signals, believes he knows Emma better than anyone. While the school is an insidious character on its own and the big reveal is slightly psychologically disturbing, Evan’s positioning as a tragic hero with an uncertain fate—which is connected to his stalking of Emma (even before her disappearance)—is far more unsettling. The ’90s setting provides the backdrop for tongue-in-cheek technological references but doesn’t do anything for the plot. Student testimonials and voice-to-text transcripts punctuate the three-way third-person narration that alternates among Neesha, Evan, and Aiden. Emma, Aiden, and Evan are assumed to be white; Neesha is Indian. Students are from all over the world, including Asia and the Middle East.

Only marginally intriguing. (Mystery. 15-18)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266203-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Garrett’s failure to produce any sympathetic characters makes her debut tough going.

THE LAST TO DIE

Burglaries turn deadly for a group of spoiled teenagers.

Harper, Alex, Sarah, Paisley, Benji, and Gin come from similarly privileged homes. Their parents make up for a lack of commitment to their high school offspring by providing unfettered access to life’s material benefits: cars, clothes, and costly vacations. When getting drunk on booze filched from their folks’ well-stocked liquor cabinets palls, they invent an exciting new game. Each time one of the teens’ families goes skiing in Vail or snorkeling in the Bahamas, a designated member of the pack breaks into the unattended house and collects an assortment of trophies to be pawned for ready cash. The rules of the looting are strict. Only one member breaks into each house, nothing is to be stolen that can’t be replaced with insurance money, and nothing stolen from other members of the group. Harper adds one more rule: no stealing from her deaf sister, Maggie. After one full round of felonious fun, the wheels start to come off the crime spree. Sarah dies from a drug overdose. The police can’t decide if it’s an accident or suicide, but Harper is sure it’s neither. She thinks Sarah is too smart to overdose on her own and too conceited to kill herself. And since no one outside her little group exists for Harper, one of her fellow thieves must have killed her. Going to the authorities is a no-go because it would reveal the group’s role in the burglaries and spoil their chances of admission to an Ivy League college. So Harper and her chums sit around and wait to see if anything else bad happens. It does. Unfortunately, even Harper’s protectiveness toward her sister carries its own whiff of smugness.

Garrett’s failure to produce any sympathetic characters makes her debut tough going.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-929345-30-4

Page Count: 206

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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