Wednesday, July 13, 2016

YA Mysteries: A Study in Charlotte, The Only Thing Worse than Me is You, and The Art of Not Breathing

Mysteries have always been considered fun escapist literature, whether they are conventional detective yarns or unconventional narratives filled with suspense.  Although vastly different in tone, three new young adult summer reads I would recommend can be classified as mysteries.  A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro is the first in a new trilogy starring descendants of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.  The Only Thing Worse than Me is You by Lily Anderson is a re-imagining of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, where the two adversaries need to cooperate to get to the bottom of a school cheating scandal.  Finally, The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander, focuses on a grief stricken girl who is trying to find out the truth about her twin brother's drowning.

A Study in Charlotte introduces Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson, the famous literary sleuths' descendants who are thrown together at Sherringford Prep School in modern day Connecticut.  Holmes' antisocial nature and drug problems are reminiscent of her famous ancestor and Watson's job again is to aid with investigations and narrate the story. When a schoolmate, who date raped Charlotte and was accosted by Jamie, is murdered, they are both under suspicion and launch an investigation to exonerate themselves.  As further crimes are committed, each mimicking a famous Holmes case,  Charlotte and Jamie use their deductive powers to solve the case.  Complete with poisons, explosions, deadly viruses and lurking descendants of Moriarty, this mystery is a real page-turner.

In the witty homage to Much Ado About Nothing, The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You, Trixie Watson and Ben West have been rivals since first grade.  Their constant snarking against each other is exhausting for their friends, but as we all know there is a thin line between love and hate.  Trixie is determined to pass Ben in class rank before graduation, but when their best friends Harper and Cornell, who are dating, ask them to declare a truce, she ends up falling for Ben instead.  She can't resist staying up at night talking with him on the phone about all their common geeky interests including Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars and Marvel comics. When Harper, number two in the class, is accused of cheating to pass Cornell, who is number one, Trixie can't believe it and sets out to prove her innocent.  Finding out who is really the culprit in the cheating scandal challenges her relationship with Ben.  Nerdy references and stinging wordplay, as well as riffs on Shakespeare's original story, will charm readers as the suspense-filled plot keeps them hoping for a happy ending.

The Art of Not Breathing adds an element of mystery to a tale of grief set in Scotland.  When Elsie's disabled twin brother Eddie drowns in the North Sea, her family falls into dysfunction.  Dad disappears, Mom drinks and older brother Dillon stops eating; all of them seemingly overreacting to Eddie's death.  Five years have passed and Elsie, who can't remember what really happened the day Eddie drowned, is still searching for answers.  When charismatic free-diver Tay befriends her, and she begins to explore the underwater world with him, things that happened that day begin coming back to her.  But everyone is hiding secrets, thwarting her attempts to unravel the mystery. The enigmatic setting and the vivid details describing Elsie's free-diving episodes where she communes with Eddie, are riveting, as she unravels the various subplots in this multi-level mystery.

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