The Mystery Writers of America have announced their nominees for the 2021 Edgar Awards which honor the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction and television published or produced in 2020. Here are the nominees in the youth categories:
Beckett is the girl that everyone looks at when she walks through the halls. She’s the girl with the addict of a father, who supposedly found him after he killed himself. There is some truth to the rumors, but Beckett also knows there are a lot of truths being hidden from her. After coming to school late, Beckett hides in the girls’ locker room that is undergoing remodeling until her class starts. That’s when she notices the trail of blood leading from the showers to a gym bag, a bag that holds a dead newborn baby. Soon rumors are swirling about Beckett again, this time insisting that she is the baby’s mother. While Beckett knows the truth about herself, she begins to think that those around her may be more involved than they might admit. With her mother the lead police investigator on the case, Beckett finds herself under lots of scrutiny, needing to prove the baby is not hers, but also realizing that due to other evidence that it must be someone close to her.
Vincent has created a riveting book that show the power of rumors in a small town, escalated and empowered by social media. Beckett stands no chance at staunching the wild rumors, with people in town even willing to say the most vile things directly to her face. She becomes more and more isolated, even as her own investigation into the baby’s death becomes more intense. The writing of this novel is particularly skilled, the tension so tight at times that it almost hurts. The final reveal of the truth is satisfying, since all the pieces click in place nicely.
At times, Beckett seems to be the lone truth teller in her family and in the entire town, standing against the rumors that almost drown her. She is profoundly strong, someone not only unwilling to bow before the social pressure but also someone who must know the truth, no matter how shattering it might be. Her relationships with her family members and her boyfriend are well drawn and show the impact of the loss of a father only a few months earlier.
Gripping and tense, this rumor-filled novel calls for us all to do better by one another. Appropriate for ages 13-18.