Tag Archives: contemporary mystery

Corrie Wang’s The Takedown 

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Corrie Wang’s The Takedown 

Corrie Wang’s The Takedown wasn’t really on my radar until I saw it on the Amazon editor’s picks for YA in April, but I’m so glad I snagged a last minute ARC on NetGalley.  I could not put it down. There is a lot going on in this story beyond the very compelling mystery of who is trying to ruin Kyla, and it is both timely and engaging.  The Takedown is publishing Tuesday, April 11, 2017, and it is well worth your time.


Goodreads Summary

Kyla Cheng doesn’t expect you to like her. For the record, she doesn’t need you to. On track to be valedictorian, she’s president of her community club, a debate team champ, plus the yummy Mackenzie Rodriguez has firmly attached himself to her hip. She and her three high-powered best friends don’t just own their senior year at their exclusive Park Slope, Brooklyn high school, they practically define the hated species Popular. Kyla’s even managed to make it through high school completely unscathed.

Until someone takes issue with this arrangement.

A week before college applications are due, a video of Kyla “doing it” with her crush-worthy English teacher is uploaded to her school’s website. It instantly goes viral, but here’s the thing: it’s not Kyla in the video. With time running out, Kyla delves into a world of hackers, haters and creepy stalkers in an attempt to do the impossible-take something off the internet-all while dealing with the fallout from her own karmic footprint. Set in near-future Brooklyn, where privacy is a bygone luxury and every perfect profile masks damning secrets, The Takedown is a stylish, propulsive, and provocative whodunit, asking who would you rely on if your tech turned against you?

My Thoughts

It was thought-provoking to follow Kyla through an experience that blurred her carefully cultivated and curated image.  I really thought I would be cheering for the downfall of this queen bee, so imagine my surprise when her narrative voice spoke to me deeply.  Some people will only see a teen drama with a scary message about personal privacy, but I saw it as a book that makes readers think about how actions will always have consequences – good and bad.  Kyla’s character goes through a nice development without betraying her – she doesn’t have to become the things others want her to be in order to grow into a better version of herself – and that was really important to me as a reader.  The messages are relevant and strong, and I think they can speak to a wide audience.  And that mystery?  It kept me guessing right up until the big reveal – bravo! This is definitely going on my high school classroom library wishlist, and it is a book I will highly recommend to my students.  Language (some of it in annoying but relevant text talk) and situations are appropriate for grades 10+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Sanctuary Bay – you think you know what is going to happen in this YA, but you really, really don’t

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Sanctuary Bay – you think you know what is going to happen in this YA, but you really, really don’t

Sanctuary Bay is a psychological thriller/mystery with a lot of elements I’d seen before, so I was very surprised at how unpredictable the plot turned out to be.  I really expected to see a bunch of rich mean girls demoralizing the poor kid with pluck, and I was quite happy that the story didn’t go in that direction.  And there is a secret society involved, so, of course I knew they were going to torture her in some horrible way.  Instead, Sarah is embraced in her new world, but her new world really feels too perfect to be true (so, of course, it is).

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Goodreads Summary

Will Sarah Merson’s shiny new prep school change her life forever or bring it to a dark and sinister end?

When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country-Sanctuary Bay Academy-it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home, escaping to its tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn’t sound more appealing. Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate’s dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay’s glossy reputation.

My Thoughts

Sarah is a narrative voice that most readers will relate to, and she has some pretty insightful revelations about judging others and embracing opportunity.  I was pretty pleased with that extra depth in a story of this genre.  The secondary characters in this story were also surprisingly dimensional, and that is kind of a rarity in a YA were secondary characters are often archetypes who offer little beyond a posse for the protagonist to hang out with.  These were unique individuals, and they each served to move the plot further along.

As far as plot goes, I don’t want to ruin the fun, so I won’t talk much about it other than to say I really wanted to know how this mystery would play out, so much so that I read it in a single sitting.  It was a pretty action packed ride, and it was not as predictable as I really thought it would be.  That isn’t to say that it wasn’t logical, because it is, but the author chose to twist situations in ways I didn’t anticipate.  I’m not going to lie. This is still a pretty surface read that is more about entertainment than improving your mind, but I enjoyed it.

The real stars in this book are the atmosphere and the setting.  There was a juxtaposition of a beautiful facade with something rather terrible running underneath.  I thought the unease the author managed to convey to readers was well done.  I, like Sarah, knew there was something wrong with Sanctuary Bay, but as soon as I got really worked up about it, something totally normal would convince me I was just being paranoid.  I’ll admit it was a bit of front loading to have an island cut off from the real world that had once been home to an insane asylum as well as a Nazi prisoner of war camp, but I was willing to suspend my disbelief and just enjoy the show.

Overall, I found this book compelling and engaging.  I think my high school readers will enjoy unraveling this mystery, especially those who enjoy a creepy atmosphere.  I’m adding it to my classroom library wish list.  There is a little horror element to the story that I thought was surprisingly intense and there is some drug/alcohol use as well as some light sensuality, so this is most appropriate for high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

YA Mystery Delves Into The Dark World of Sex Trafficking

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YA Mystery Delves Into The Dark World of Sex Trafficking

The Forgetting is a YA mystery that longs to push its readers into seeing their own lives, and the lives of the unacknowledged people around them, in a new light. Does it succeed? I’m not sure. The prerequisite romance sort of takes it down a level, but a writer’s gotta do what it takes to being in the readers, I guess. This is a book for fans of dark YA contemporary mystery.

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Georgie’s new heart came with a few extras — she is remembering things from the life of another girl — a girl who lived a grim existence and experienced a lonely death. Determined to hold on to herself, Georgie seeks out the answers to the mystery of the Jane Doe whose death gave her a second chance at life. This book had a rough start — I was convinced it was going to be a silly mystery based on the first few chapters. Then, it got real — sex trafficking, failing foster system, entitled blinders. This was a dark look at what goes on just around the corner from your white picket fence. It was also about evaluating what you want to do about it, once the lace curtain has been pulled back. Georgie grows a lot as a character, and though her dumb risks are too often rewarded (setting a terrible example for budding do-gooders), she does a fair job of conveying key themes without making readers feel judged. There is a little too much of the hooker with the heart of gold in a couple of the characters, and the bad guys are also lacking nuances that would make them feel real. This is problematic because the theme plays on the idea that bad things are happening in plain sight to people like you and me. That is not supported when almost every villain is quickly identifiable by their attitude or appearance. Luckily, there are enough suspected bad guys to sustain the mystery until the reveal. I think my high school students will find the mystery compelling if they stick it out past the first few chapters. The topic is certainly one that they need to know more about, and while it is a mature and controversial topic, this book avoids graphic content and sensationalized scenes that would steer parents and librarians away. Both language and situations make The Forgetting appropriate for mature high school readers.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.