Appetizer: Sixteen-year-old Hartley has been hearing rumors about her boyfriend, Josh. Apparently he's cheating on her with Courtney, a queen bee and chastity club princess. That's why Hartley and her best friend Sam search Josh's locker then drive to his house after school. But instead of being able to confront Josh like they had planned, they find Courtney. Dead. Strangled with the iPod earbud cords. (Major tangent: could a person properly strangle someone to death with earbuds? I spent way too much time contemplating this. Mostly because I have to buy earbuds in bulk. They break easily and often. Am I alone in this situation?)
All evidence points to Josh being the killer; especially the fact that he has gone into hiding. Josh reaches out to Hartley, swearing he didn't kill Courtney. So, it falls to Hartley, Sam and a broad-shouldered and handsome online high school newspaper editor named Chase to uncover the truth.
Admittedly, Hartley is no Veronica Mars (which is what I had been craving when I picked up this book). There are a lot of fun touches of humor and some interesting word play ("She shot me a sugar-coated smile. I matched it calorie for calorie." (p. 106)) throughout the story. I liked Hartley's mom solely due to her reactions when she learns that her daughter had been dating a boy who turned out to be a murder suspect:
"Oh, Hartley," Mom said, hugging me again. "To think I let you go out with a killer!"..."God, I can't believe it. I played tennis with Josh's mom just last month," Mom said. "And here she was, raising a murderer." (p. 81)Oh, you amuse me, Hartley's mom.
It is worth noting, that while this series seems to be gearing up to be a bit of light fun, there may be a red flag or two for some overprotective parents of tweens. Although the book avoids swearing for the most part (they're censoring themselves now), there was some explicit discussion of sex (no actual sex scene, but early on in the first book, Hartley describes an unsuccessful sexual encounter in more detail than some might prefer). But as Hartley says to another character, "Teenagers have sex...get over it" (p. 108).
Social Suicide at some point.
"There are three things you never want to find in your boyfriend's locker: a sweaty jockstrap, a D minus on last week's history test, and an empty condom wrapper.
Lucky me, I'd hit the trifecta." (p. 1)
"So, I did what any good girlfriend would do. I broke into Josh's locker. Would the more mature thing have been to confront him directly with the rumors? Possibly. Would it have been as effective?
I looked at the shiny gold-foil in my hand.
Doubtful." (p. 3)
"But as Courtney's head dropped back like a rag doll's, I realized there was no way she was getting up. Her hair fell away to reveal her porcelain pale face. Her big, blue eyes were open, staring straight ahead. Her mouth was fixed in a surprised little O. And the smooth, blemish-free skin of her long, dancer's neck was bruised purple beneath the cord of her white iPod earbuds, wrapped in a deadly stranglehold around her throat." (p. 20)
"'Look, someone killed Courtney, and until the cops can nail that guy down, I'm going to be their number one suspect." He paused. "We need to find out who really killed Courtney."
"We?" I let out a short bark of a laugh. "You must be joking."
"Please, Hart, you're the only one I can trust." (p. 39)
"I wasn't hot on the idea of my every move being printed for all HHH society to see. On the other hand, I wasn't so hot on the idea of visiting Josh in a jail cell either.
And, the sad fact was, beyond canvassing the street for any nosy neighbors, I didn't have a clue where to begin a murder investigation. Let's face it, I could use all the help I could get.
I turned to Sam. She cocked her head to the side and shrugged.
"All right. Fine," I said, shoving my hand toward Chase. "Deal."
He grinned, one corner of his mouth tugging upward just a little higher than the other as he grasped my hand and shook.
"Deal." (p. 55)
"Killer beware, because Herbert Hoover High has its very one Nancy Drew on the case." (p. 115)
Tasty Rating: !!!