THE UNDERDOGS by Sara Hammel

THE UNDERDOGS

Age Range: 10 - 14
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Best friends try to figure out who murdered a pretty 16-year-old girl at a tennis club.

Evie, 12, and her best friend, narrator Chelsea, spend their summer hanging out together at the Boston-area tennis club where Evie’s father works as a tennis pro and Chelsea’s mother manages the desk. Both are wounded souls with distressing back stories. Evie, who’s fat and bullied, is living with her indifferent dad because her mother deserted her; Chelsea was horrifically abused before being adopted. Because both protagonists are club fixtures and largely invisible to the campers and elite tennis players, they manage to secretly shadow the detective responsible for solving the murder and the various suspects as well. A strong subplot concerns Evie’s transformation from a fat, angry outcast to a thinner tennis whiz. About halfway through the novel, readers should begin to notice various discrepancies—things that don’t quite scan or make complete sense. This feeling continues to increase until the end, when a doozy of a revelation changes the way readers perceive everything that came before. The twist is not 100-percent fair, and there will be a few pages of puzzlement before readers get the aha, but it certainly clears up the incongruities. Chelsea describes the people around her, mostly white, but she avoids touching on her own appearance, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions.

The novel is absorbing and enjoyable, but readers’ feelings about this oddball mystery/life-transformation hybrid will depend on whether they’re delighted or annoyed by the surprise ending. (Mystery. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 31st, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-374-30161-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2016




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