After a roof mysteriously collapses on five students from Rockland Academy, the teens realize their parents wants them dead.
One teen is white, one is a brown-skinned Haitian-American, one is Korean-American, one is Latino, and one is “darkish.” Two of them alternate narration as the group investigates the convoluted conspiracy, growing desperate after one member is murdered. Brown-skinned Saralinda, who juggles a club foot, diabetes, an overprotective mother, and a quirky cane named Georgia, narrates in flowery, frantic, run-on sentences that reveal her oddly self-deprecating wit as well as the anxiety engendered by her mother’s constant supervision. Caleb, the Latino son of a famous psychiatrist, narrates in the second person, believing that an “internal evil twin” performs terrible deeds he can’t remember. Their distinct voices and their conflicting feelings toward their parents (and each other) would pack quite an emotional punch were the narrative’s focus on them a little sharper. The other characters’ expository back stories are crowded with drama, but there’s little room to develop their rather one-note personalities amid helicopter chases; exploding cars; escapes aided by convenient kind strangers; burgeoning straight and (hackneyed) lesbian romance; surprising weapons; elaborate ruses; and timely confessions. Filicide, still a somewhat taboo and weighty issue, feels reduced to another gimmick in the onslaught of over-the-top schemes.
Fans of nonstop action will appreciate the breakneck pace, but those hoping for plumbing of character may grow fatigued. (Thriller. 14-18)