This book has been on my TBR for such a long time, and when Ellie and I agreed to do a buddy read together it felt like the perfect opportunity to pick it up at last. Thank you so much to Ellie, she made reading this a really fun experience and it was great to share our reactions to everything that happened.
Published: 30th May 2017
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
Trigger warnings: Cyber bullying, sexual references, drugs, homophobia
Yale hopeful Bronwyn has never publicly broken a rule.
Sports star Cooper only knows what he’s doing in the baseball diamond.
Bad boy Nate is one misstep away from a life of crime.
Prom queen Addy is holding together the cracks in her perfect life.
And outsider Simon, creator of the notorious gossip app at Bayview High, won’t ever talk about any of them again. He dies 24 hours before he could post their deepest secrets online. Investigators conclude it’s no accident. All of them are suspects.
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you’ll go to protect them.
This is a mystery that presents a fascinating premise and almost totally delivers in terms of execution. It is both supremely clever and very well thought out as the story poses an endless stream of questions that will tie your brain up in knots and leave you desperate for answers, all while trying to pick the merest of holes in each character’s narrative.
The technique of using multiple perspectives and switching frequently between them works perfectly for this book and it is done to maximum effect, adding to the already considerable intrigue and creating something that is not only addictive, but brilliantly developed. As a result, I was so invested in discovering how it would all play out that each revelation towards the end was met with an audible reaction.
One day at school, five pupils go into detention at Bayview High School but only four come out alive. Bronwyn is bright and abides by all the rules. Cooper is popular, easy-going, and very good at baseball. Nate is in danger of falling into a life of crime and is on probation for dealing drugs. Addy is the glamourous prom queen. Meanwhile, Simon runs an app that reveals everyone at Bayview’s worst secrets and is rather unpopular.
The only thing they have in common is that mobile phones were all placed in their school bags without their knowledge, causing them to be put in detention with technophobe teacher Mr Avery. Whilst there, Simon pours himself a drink of water before a car accident takes place outside, which makes everyone get out of their seats to look out of the window. Mr Avery leaves the room.
When Simon eventually downs his water, he suffers a severe allergic reaction and dies, despite the others’ best efforts to revive him. The suspicion immediately falls on his four classmates. Did one of them put something in Simon’s drink when he was not looking and remove the EpiPens from the nurse’s room? As the case plays out under the glare of the national media, they all protest their innocence, but it also emerges that Simon knew things about them that they were desperate to hide.
The plot was gripping and threw up all sorts of possibilities, which ensured that I was constantly speculating about what really happened during the detention and most importantly, who killed Simon. The inclusion of cryptic social media posts made things more interesting, as did the fact that the whole thing seemed staged and all the main characters had an apparent motive.
Every character comes under scrutiny at various stages of the book, which made for an exciting guessing game, and the outcome was quite unexpected in its own way. The only minor issue I had was the absence of even the most subtle of clues, giving the reader very little opportunity to work things out. One of the most important pieces of information was given retrospectively, which I did not really appreciate.
Apart from that, however, it is thoroughly engrossing and I loved that despite the complexity surrounding the mystery, there was also a major focus on character development. The story alternates between the four points of view throughout its timeline, all of them written in the first person and – despite not possessing a great deal of originality in one or two cases – provided with an excellent amount of depth.
Of all the characters, Bronwyn is the one most determined to get to the truth. I really liked this aspect of her, and she clearly becomes less self-conscious over the course of the story. We see this most acutely in her romance with Nate, which seemed unlikely at first but their relationship was very sweet and I ended up rooting for them.
Nate himself was someone who I was unsure I would like in the beginning, but he definitely grew on me. He struck me as misunderstood, and I particularly appreciated the way he defied all the clichés. As for Cooper, he was the kind of likeable person who looked out for everyone, and he had a very interesting storyline that the author developed so well.
But for me, the biggest surprise of all was Addy. I had a fairly negative opinion of her at first as she seemed vain and also quite submissive, but she grew so much as a character to the extent that she became my favourite out of the four. It was absolutely wonderful to see her gain such a level of independence and inner strength.
For all of their positive traits, the book always left you to wonder if one was indeed lying and had actually killed Simon, which made the mystery very fiendish indeed. There are plenty of other characters who come into the reckoning too. Each one of them is very well developed, and several of them are also hard to completely trust.
It all takes place in a fairly typical high school setting, but that did help to highlight certain topics such as class divisions and unsavoury social attitudes. The inclusion of Mikhail Powers Investigates and all the media coverage was perhaps a little over-dramatic, but it was entertaining all the same.
The writing is engaging and has a fast pace, giving the plot a real intensity. There is excellent attention to detail which is evident in each component of the mystery, and it is easy to see why this has become one of the most popular young adult thrillers along with A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder, one of the outstanding books I have read this year.
Overall, this is a difficult book to put down. The character development works brilliantly alongside a compulsive mystery and barring a few slight niggles, it was a highly accomplished read. The sequel is now a tantalising prospect and having finally got round to picking up this book, I am now wondering what took me so long.
A very good read. I loved the use of multiple POVs and the amount of character development, which as much as anything made it a hard one to put down. The mystery was not bad either!
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5