A young woman whose parents pressure her academically becomes entangled in a web of blackmail in this mystery.
Having alienated her friends early on in her high school career due to efforts to conceal both her burgeoning panic disorder and a dermatological condition from them, white, overachieving Kara jumps at the chance to hang out with friendly, smart, Vietnamese-American Alex. When Alex tells her about a new drug that may help her to manage her anxiety during her SAT retake (she fainted during an earlier sitting of the exam), she's desperate enough to try it and buys some illicitly from handsome, charming Raj, a British-Indian student at her high school. It helps her ace the test, but soon Kara begins receiving threatening text messages with photos showing her buying the pills. A by-the-book whodunit ensues, with each clue leading to the next and pulling in a broad and fairly diverse cast of characters. Issues such as family pressure and the stigma around mental health disorders provide a bit of depth, though Kara’s anxiety seems to abate conveniently as the well-paced detective work of the group takes over.
Despite a too-tidy resolution, readers will be kept guessing until they get there—which will please established mystery fans. (Mystery. 14-18)