At page two, I laughed out loud.
At page six, I vowed to go back and read everything that Tim Tharp has ever written.
At page eight, I was completely and irrevocably in love with Mojo, and more specifically, with the voice of its narrator, high school junior Dylan Jones. I didn’t fall in lurrrve with the boy himself—instead, I developed something far more rare: a sort of awe at what a fully realized character he is. I believed in him unreservedly from the very first page—through crazy situations and plot twists—and, even as I watched him make mistake after mistake, felt nothing but affection for him.
He gets no respect. He’s got no car, no girl and, you guessed it, no mojo. Even after finding the body of classmate Hector Maldonado in a Dumpster—an event that would have earned anyone else acclaim and admiration—all he gets is a new, crappy nickname: Body Bag. That, and the privilege of briefly being the cops’ number one suspect.
On cops: The detectives were even bigger assholes than the uniforms. There was a huge one with a forehead like a cinder block and then a wiry cool-type guy who was too in love with his hair gel. It wasn’t hard to see what their routine was. Detective Forehead’s job was to intimidate you physically, and Detective Hair Gel was there to throw in a few zingers to deflate your self-esteem.
The cops quickly lose interest in the Maldonado case: After all, he was Hispanic and there were drugs in his system, ergo, he must have OD'd. (They don’t seem too concerned about how he ended up in the Dumpster.) They’re much more interested in finding Ashton Browning, the rich white girl who’s gone missing on the other side of town. Dylan, meanwhile, is also interested in solving the mystery. He figures that with his investigative skills (mostly learned from watching re-runs of Walker, Texas Ranger), finding her will be a snap—not only will he gain the respect of his peers (and show up those jerk detectives), but he’ll be able to buy a sweet car with the $100,000 reward.
Murder mystery logic, as applied to real-life: Then I had a stroke of brilliance—if the dad is the most obvious suspect and the real culprit is never supposed to be the most obvious suspect, then doesn’t that really make him the least obvious suspect? Therefore, if he’s the least obvious suspect, then he must be guilty.
Mojo is more than a mystery that deals with classism, racism, peer pressure and bullying. It’s a story about friendship from the perspective of a good-hearted, imperfect boy. Dylan’s head is easily turned by shiny things (and shiny people), but he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body; he sounds hard-boiled, but cries easily; when it comes down to the wire, his first instinct is to go the stand-up route. His best-friendship with Audrey is beautifully done—I especially loved how her love interest is someone quite similar to Dylan in terms of sense of humor and interests—but, by the end, it was his friend Randy who really had my heart. At first, he comes off as bumbling comic relief, but as the story progressed, I realized that he was thoughtful, forthright, loyal and is more confident in himself than anyone else in the book...and he had been the whole time.
Highly, highly recommended. I adored it.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy might be re-watching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.