Posts tagged ‘mystery’

June 28th, 2011

Clarity by Kim Harrington; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Clarity

Author: Kim Harrington

Published: March 1st, 2011

Number of Pages: 256

Rating: 4/5


When you can see things others can’t, where do you look for the truth?
This paranormal murder mystery will have teens reading on the edge of their seats.
Clarity “Clare” Fern sees things. Things no one else can see. Things like stolen kisses and long-buried secrets. All she has to do is touch a certain object, and the visions come to her. It’s a gift.
And a curse.
When a teenage girl is found murdered, Clare’s ex-boyfriend wants her to help solve the case – but Clare is still furious at the cheating jerk. Then Clare’s brother – who has supernatural gifts of his own – becomes the prime suspect, and Clare can no longer look away. Teaming up with Gabriel, the smoldering son of the new detective, Clare must venture into the depths of fear, revenge, and lust in order to track the killer. But will her sight fail her just when she needs it most? [From Goodreads]


Excitement in Eastport? Nay! But I had time to snoop around Nancy Drew style.


I haven’t read many books like Clarity, which is difficult to believe. The synopsis alone tells you there’s a love triangle (one boy is blond, the other has that dark-hair, dark-skinned look. Neither description is shocking), a girl with a potentially dysfunctional family, and a paranormal element. One could immediately assume this book complies with just about every trend/stereotype in young adult literature. I don’t have too much against that idea, personally. They trend because they’re fun and entertaining – two adjectives I’m rather fond of.

The feature that sets Clarity apart is the mystery. Mystery is not the most prevalent subgenre in YA (from what I’ve seen, at least). Certainly all books have a bit of it because they have to have suspense, but most don’t focus on it. Clarity does, and it emphasizes those fun and entertaining adjectives I mentioned earlier. Clarity’s mystery is executed beautifully. Kim Harrington begins the book with the climax, then jumps back nine days. She pretty much gave the reader a tantalizing nibble of a delicious slice of cheesecake and then swiped it away, saying, “Read 240 more pages and I’ll let you eat the rest.”

About mid-way through the book, I was certain I could predict the end. Then, I switched one character out for another. And another. And another. There were multiple possibilities and every single one seemed like a probability at some point along the way. I love that my final guess was wrong! Just as it should be. Harrington kept me on my toes and still managed to outsmart me.

Clarity is one of my favorite protagonists ever. She’s witty and clever and is great at insulting people. GO CLARE! My favorite people are those who can engage in a good argument or “teasing match.” She and I would complement each other beautifully, I think. It really is too bad we’ll never be able to argue with one another. (I also think she’d get along great with Paranormalcy’s Evie.) Clare certainly has her weaknesses, prejudices, and silly tendencies, but she realizes a few of them along the way – the first step toward becoming a better person. I could read a dozen books from her perspective and am definitely looking forward to a sequel!

The main reason I was initially interested in Clarity was a comment made by Andye in her review. She said that though she knew she should be rooting for the “smoldering young detective,” she preferred the cheating ex-boyfriend.

Unsurprisingly, I was curious.

I could go on and on about the pros and cons of both, um, candidates, but suffice it to say that neither struck me as very original, personality-wise. I’ll be interested in seeing how their characters develop in future books. (I can’t even say much more without giving something away!) Justin (the ex) is evidently a pretty decent guy, despite Clare’s assertions to the contrary, while Gabriel appears shadier and alluring. Both appearances are generally attractive to the YA audience (admit it), and Harrington does a great job of creating these two crowd-pleasing guys.

The two most unique and enjoyable aspects of the novel are the mystery and voice. I read the book in one afternoon. The 250 pages pass in a flash. It’s so much fun to feel supported by an adept author. I could let the story carry me, like the current of a river, along a natural and organic path. Clare’s voice gave the story buoyancy, and the mystery gave it a strong current. I have no doubt that many other readers will be pleased by the enthralling ride that is Clarity.

March 29th, 2011

Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Cryer’s Cross

Author: Lisa McMann

Published: February 8th, 2011 by Simon Pulse

Number of Pages: 240

Rating: 3/5


I highly regret this day in advance.


The community of Cryer’s Cross, Montana (population 212) is distraught when high school freshman Tiffany disappears without a trace. Already off-balance due to her OCD, 16-year-old Kendall is freaked out seeing Tiffany’s empty desk in the one-room school house, but somehow life goes on… until Kendall’s boyfriend Nico also disappears, and also without a trace. Now the town is in a panic. Alone in her depression and with her OCD at an all-time high, Kendall notices something that connects Nico and Tiffany: they both sat at the same desk. She knows it’s crazy, but Kendall finds herself drawn to the desk, dreaming of Nico and wondering if maybe she, too, will disappear…and whether that would be so bad. Then she begins receiving graffiti messages on the desk from someone who can only be Nico. Can he possibly be alive somewhere? Where is he? And how can Kendall help him? The only person who believes her is Jacian, the new guy she finds irritating…and attractive. As Kendall and Jacian grow closer, Kendall digs deeper into Nico’s mysterious disappearance only to stumble upon some ugly—and deadly—local history. Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried. [From Goodreads]


I’ve heard plenty of great things about Lisa McMann, but I tried to keep my expectations reasonable as I dove into Cryer’s Cross. While I wasn’t blown away, I can happily report that Cryer’s Cross will likely be a hit among McMann fans.

Life certainly isn’t as simple and routine as it appears in the small town of Cryer’s Cross. McMann does a fantastic job of effortlessly showing the reader how comfortable the people of the town are in their way of life. Things are uncomplicated and proceed in a laid-back, seamless way. Of course, that’s all before the story begins. Mundane routines are not the makings of a good story.

But murder? Make that a murder and a disappearance? Now that’s what readers are waiting for. Cryer’s Cross does not disappoint in the area of intrigue. The general idea of the novel is precisely what a person would look for in a thriller. I loved the fact that there was undeniably something… unnatural going on beneath the surface, and the promise of that weird something kept me reading.

However, I finished the book feeling rather let down. The mystery wasn’t as complex as I had hoped. On the other hand, the climax of the novel was perfect. Perfectly disgusting, terrifying, and altogether ideal for a thriller. The sweet moments of pure revulsion are just what the story needs.

Aside from the climax, there were two other highlights – the romance and the way McMann portrays Kendell’s OCD. I’d never had a clear idea of what OCD is. Kendell’s life is constantly affected by it. Every moment from the one in which she wakes up to the one in which she falls asleep is mandated by her small obsessions. She makes it to school early to straightens desks, for example, and her entire morning is thrown off when she fails to follow her routine. On the other hand, there are times when her obsessive compulsiveness comes in handy, and I think part of Kendell’s story is the process she goes through to realize there’s a reason for the way she is.

The romantic plotline wasn’t unique in the way it played out, but I believe that’s simply because the method McMann used is tried and true. Every reader falls for the hard-to-get boy with the tough exterior, right? While slightly unoriginal, it works as beautifully as always and was a treat amidst the darkness of the mystery/thriller plotline.

Overall, the book didn’t wow me or prove exceptional, but it’s certainly worth your time if you’re a fan of Lisa McMann or quirky thrillers. There’s also something about mysteries set in small towns that gets me every time.

January 18th, 2011

Gentlemen by Michael Northrop; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Gentlemen

Author: Michael Northrop

Published: November 1st, 2010 by Scholastic*

Number of Pages: 240

Rating: 3/5

Official Review:

Gentlemen is not the book I thought it would be. With the many surprises and course changes throughout, my mind tripped over itself as the story unfolded. However, it was Mike that caught my attention with his rugged and unexpectedly thoughtful voice. Northrop does an outstanding job of creating characters who are nearly the opposite of how they originally appear – characters who I gradually learned to love or love to hate. At the very least, Gentlemen is a book that will keep you on your toes.


Micheal, Tommy, Mixer, and Bones aren’t just from the wrong side of the tracks–they’re from the wrong side of everything. Except for Mr. Haberman, their remedial English teacher, no one at their high school takes them seriously. Haberman calls them “gentlemen,” but everyone else ignores them–or, in Bones’s case, is dead afraid of them. When one of their close-knit group goes missing, the clues all seem to point in one direction: to Mr. Haberman.

Gritty, fast-paced, and brutally real, this debut takes an unflinching look at what binds friends together–and what can tear them apart. [From Goodreads]


This book definitely surprised me – in all the right ways.

Namely, the main character. I did not expect Mike to be the clever, funny, intelligent boy that he is. He does a fabulous job of hiding his potential and intuitiveness. I loved reading his rough but unarguably thoughtful and contemplative voice. He’s a kid made up of contradictions. He wears a stereotype like a badge, but is anything but on the inside.

That’s not to say he’s a perfect person. He does some terrible, terrible things. He’s dark and his priorities are skewed. I wouldn’t want to know him personally. So, while I thoroughly enjoyed reading about him, I’m glad I we’re not actually acquainted.

Gentlemen is primarily a murder mystery, even if it was the main character that awed me. The plot is interesting, but it would be nothing (in my opinion, anyway) if it weren’t for the fabulous way that Michael Northrop weaves Crime and Punishment into the story. As Mike sat in his English class, turning over possibilities in his head, I was absorbed in the actual proceedings of the class. I’ve been eager to get my hands on a copy of Crime and Punishment ever since.

As the mystery unfolds, the boys’ suspicions travel from person to person, but invariably return to Haberman. What they claim are clues are sketchy at best, but once an idea is thought of, it’s hard to shake. I spent a majority of the book full of anticipation because, despite the unreliability of the evidence, it’s still convincing. I floundered and wondered alongside the characters.

It’s not until the boys take matters into their own hands and act that nervousness overpowered my anticipation. I wanted to crawl into a hole and close my eyes until the book was over. My apprehension mirrored Mike’s. In just a few pages, the many possible endings are eliminated, and the conclusion is inevitable (and dreaded).

Though Gentlemen is anything but cheery, I appreciated the hard-hitting honesty. The characters who did wrong are duly punished, and those who did nothing at all are let free. My mind did trip over itself, but I realized in the end that everything unfolded as it should have and everyone lands in the right place. I was also pleased by the fact that the book induces thoughts on various odd-ball subjects that I might not have pondered otherwise.

I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for something that will keep their minds alert and ready for anything, particularly something out of the ordinary. I would certainly consider it a great book for discussion and book clubs.

I must warn you: You will be surprised, you will be upset, you will feel a little queasy. It’s a roller-coaster.

Thanks to Scholastic for the review copy!