A twisty and ultimately satisfying romantic whodunit.

THE AMATEURS

From the Amateurs series , Vol. 1

This mystery brings online friends together in their attempt to solve a murder, sparking more than one possible romance.

Aerin’s 17-year old sister, Helena, disappeared five years earlier, and the white girl’s remains were found much later. Although the police investigated and the story was big news at the time, the murderer was never found. Now 16, Aerin, also white, sends out a plea for help to an online forum wherein amateur sleuths try to solve old murders. In response, Seneca, a biracial (black/white) college student whose mother also had been murdered, decides to travel to Aerin’s snooty Connecticut town to see if she can make any progress on the case. There she meets her online buddy Maddox, who she thought was an Asian girl but turns out to be a white boy. Brett, another white online forum participant, rounds out the team. Varying levels of trust and disclosure amp up the tension and complicate the investigation. Shepard at first seems unable to decide whether she’s writing a mystery or a romance, as she teams up Seneca and Maddox, who might have another girlfriend, and Aerin with a local police officer. Eventually, however, the story begins to weave all the characters together into a solution to the mystery, with appropriate red herrings and veiled clues.

A twisty and ultimately satisfying romantic whodunit. (Mystery. 12-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4847-4227-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist.

SHE'S GONE

Seventeen-year-old Hunter Gifford has no memories of the car accident he was in the night of the homecoming dance with Chloe Summers, his now-missing girlfriend.

In the small southern Kentucky city of Bentley, comments on social media condemn Hunter as responsible for Chloe’s disappearance. When he attends the community vigil for her, Chloe’s mother publicly accuses Hunter of obstructing the investigation. Hunter’s own mom died when he was 15 and his sister, Olivia, was 12. Their dad has awkwardly attempted to pull his weight as a solo parent, and Hunter has stepped in and nurtured Livvy. Small but mighty Livvy is an ardent defender of her brother and is fiercely in love with her girlfriend, Gabriela. To make things worse, childhood friend Daniel informs Hunter that he’s making a true-crime documentary about Chloe. Hunter is upset, especially since it makes him look like a prime suspect, and a subsequent dramatic event draws more attention to the video. Hunter and Chloe met in creative writing club, and he knew she kept a journal—but it’s missing. Enter the sleuthing team of Hunter, Livvy, and Gabriela, who hatch a plan to find it. The dynamics between Hunter and Livvy and Livvy and Gabriela are endearing and will charm readers, who will root for them to solve the well-executed mystery. Main characters default to White; Gabriela is Mexican American.

This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72825-420-3

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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Exactly what the title promises.

BETTER THAN THE MOVIES

A grieving teen’s devotion to romance films might ruin her chances at actual romance.

Liz Buxbaum has always adored rom-coms, not least for helping her still feel close to her screenwriter mother, who died when she was little. Liz hopes that her senior year might turn into a real-life romantic fantasy, as an old crush has moved back to town, cuter and nicer than ever. Surely she can get Michael to ask her to prom. If only Wes, the annoying boy next door, would help her with her scheming! This charming, fluffy concoction manages to pack into one goofy plot every conceivable trope, from fake dating to the makeover to the big misunderstanding. Creative, quirky, daydreaming Liz is just shy of an annoying stereotype, saved by a dry wit and unresolved grief and anger. Wes makes for a delightful bad boy with a good heart, and supporting characters—including a sassy best friend, a perfect popular rival, even a (not really) evil stepmother—all get the opportunity to transcend their roles. The only villain here is Liz’s lovelorn imagination, provoking her into foolish lies that cause actual hurt feelings; but she is sufficiently self-aware to make amends just in time for the most important trope of all: a blissfully happy ending. All characters seem to be White by default.

Exactly what the title promises. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6762-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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