People Like Us, by Dana Mele (2018)

Mystery
14-18
People Like Us, by Dana MeleSo I guess boarding school murders are a thing! This is my second review for today, as I couldn’t help bundling these together given their plot similarities. This one is set in the U.S., on the east coast. Bates Academy is a boarding school for privileged girls from elite families, with a scholarship program that gives Kay Donovan a spot, despite her humble background. As this is her big break, Kay befriends the right group and despite a habit of stocking her closet with borrowed clothes she “forgets” to return, her sharp wit and withering comments quickly earn her a coveted spot in the leadership clique. Now in fourth year, the girls put on the Skeleton costume dance for Halloween, and the book opens as the dance ends and the girls meet at the lake for the annual skinny dip. To their shock, they discover a body in the water, a student named Jessica Lane. But it’s not the first body Kay has seen, or even the second. It’s a secret she has kept at Bates, but someone has found out. When Kay gets back to her room after all the police questions, she finds an email sent from Jessica’s account, threatening to reveal all and ending her dreams of a soccer scholarship unless Kay follows through on revenge instructions against the girls who made Jessica’s life miserable at Bates – all of them Kay’s friends. It’s a mash-up of Thirteen Reasons Why and Pretty Little Liars. I found the plotting strong enough to keep young readers guessing, with lots of twists and turns to keep track of. Kay is an interesting protagonist; she is bisexual and Mele includes mild descriptions of Kay’s intimate encounters with girls and boys. Kay’s back story is slowly unveiled, right to the very last page, and while she is a tough character to like, I stayed engaged through to the end, and loved the cliff-hanger. But overall the writing falls short. Kay is not a sympathetic protagonist at all; she is a hardened and distant teen, which makes it hard to like her, and that’s always a problem in YA books. Additionally, her poor judgment grows irritating for this adult reader, along with the complete lack of any adult involvement – how do Kay’s parents not find out that their daughter is a prime suspect in a murder? Seriously. But for fans of the genre, this is a better choice than S.T.A.G.S. My thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons Publishing for the advance reading copy provided digitally through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
More discussion and reviews of this book: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35356380
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