In a noir-flavored mystery, a hard-drinking, tough-talking teen cracks a case and learns a lesson about getting—and getting over—the girl.
Ever since Ellie Chen broke up with him, Charlie Dixon has been drunk and desperate. When he crashes Ellie’s choir mate’s party, flask in hand, his neighbor and ex-girlfriend, Bridget, drives him home. The next day, he learns from the police that a party guest overdosed on LSD, and Charlie himself is a suspect. Bridget offers him an alibi in exchange for his services in investigating a missing flash drive, and so begins a descent into the underground dealings at Palm Valley High. The goings-on—including drug dealing, sports betting and academic cheating—are seedy, and Charlie’s narrative voice is full of hard-boiled similes and gripes: “She looked like a sad girl in search of a tragedy. I could steer her toward mine, but it would cost her a finder’s fee.” Palm Valley High’s social tribalism has a similarly gritty-underground feel: To avoid bullying, students divide themselves into factions with intricate rules against upperclassmen-lowerclassmen interactions, and much of Charlie’s investigation involves navigating this complex and larger-than-life political terrain.
A dark, well-constructed mystery with a strong voice. (Mystery. 14-18)