This book begins with Shayne Blank entering a police department to confess a murder. The question for readers is how this kid who is new to school got into the situation. Mikey is a kid whose mouth always gets him into trouble. Though he thinks he wants to blend in and be invisible at times, he dresses in secondhand suits that make him stick out from the regular high school crowd. When Shayne seems interested in being his friend, Mikey has just ticked off his sister’s boyfriend, drug dealer Jon by dumping a bag in order not to be caught in a sweep of the school. Jon now says that Mikey owes him $500 and that he will pay it back. As the tension grows throughout the novel and the damage done by Jon and others gets more intense, readers will be caught in flashbacks looking for the trigger to the murder. A riveting and tense story about truth, friendship and what one is capable of, this slim novel will hook many readers.
Hautman has written a novel with a structure that creates tension all on its own. Add in some evil drug dealing teens, a mouthy unusual teen who tells the bulk of the book in his voice, and the natural vibe of the police department, and this is one pulse-pounding book. Additionally, Hautman puts the characters in situations where murder is not only possible but likely. This adds to the taut nature of the book even further. The characters are interesting, especially Shayne who is very bright, very tough and a complete mystery. Mikey is a character who would be easily unlikeable but because much of the book is shown through his perspective becomes understood at least by the reader.
That said, the book is not perfect. The ending was brilliant, twisting away from the twist I had expected to my great delight. But the book should have ended a chapter earlier than it does. It should have left us hanging a bit, figuring it out for ourselves. With the final chapter added in, the mystery of Shayne is revealed and it is all a bit too neatly resolved. I’d have much preferred the mysteries and questions to remain.
A book that teens will relate to and be unable to put down, this is a tense and thrilling ride from confession to deed. Appropriate for ages 16-18.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.