A gripping and addictive teen thriller that is also serves as a masterclass in structure and plot.
Five very different teens – Ivy, Mattie, Kinley, Tyler, and Cade – all have their own reason to sign up to Dr Stratford’s psychology summer school. None, however, anticipate watching their teacher die. Neither do they expect to end up helping hide the body and then spending the rest of the summer watching their back – and each other – as they wait for the body to be found. Will their hastily constructed cover story hold up? As nerves start to crack, will they each be able to cope as strange and sinister events unfold around them?
When you open this book and start to read you’re immediately drawn in by the intriguing set of teen voices and the dramatic plot. While told in third person, the reader is able to feel close to the thoughts and emotions of each of the characters. It does take a little while to fully assimilate all five but this is aided by the strong writing and the fact that all five are fully rounded characters (if not very likeable).
When reading the book I didn’t really stop to think about the structure (although it’s impossible not to note the clever way the various plot points are drip fed in). However, when I reflected on what to write in this review, I realised it is, in fact, a masterpiece when it comes to structure and plotting. The backstory of our five teens unfolds naturally with the explanations of the escalating events appearing at just the right moment. This is impressive in its own right but even more so when I realised the individual chapters from each character’s viewpoint actually appear in strict rotation!
There is just one chapter that doesn’t follow this structure – the final chapter. This chapter is from the perspective of the police officer responsible for the investigation of Dr Stratford’s death and provides the opportunity for a last-minute twist. This ending fits perfectly with what goes before and I’m sure that for many readers this will be the icing on the cake of a thoroughly enjoyable thriller. It may, however, be one of those ‘marmite’ endings (apologies to non-UK readers of this review who have no clue what I’m referring to): there may be a handful of readers, myself included, who leave the book longing for a different conclusion. This is, however, a minor niggle in what is an otherwise gripping and addictive thriller.
If you enjoyed this, you’ve probably already read One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus. If not, it really is a must read. Alternatively, you might like to try This Lie Will Kill You by Chelsea Pitcher or one of the nail-biting thrillers by Sue Wallman. Sue’s most recent book is Dead Popular but my personal favourite is See How They Lie.
Publication Date: July 2020
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Author’s Website: Amanda K Morgan