Murder on a School Night

Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins/. Jul. 2023. 384p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063260276.
Gr 7-10–Kerry and Annie have always been outcasts, but when Annie offers to help Heather, the most popular girl in school, discover who’s been threatening her over Instagram, they find themselves invited to their first-ever party. A party that ends when Kerry stumbles upon Selena, Heather’s best friend, dead after choking on a menstrual cup. The police insist the death was accidental, but Annie is determined to prove otherwise, enlisting Kerry in her scheme to discover who killed Selena. But when the deaths continue to pile up and the evidence starts pointing to Kerry’s boyfriend as the murderer, they’ll really need to employ all their detective skills to solve the case. This purports to be a murder mystery rom-com, and while it does feature all of those elements, most of them fall a bit flat. Annie’s quips initiate some chuckles, but most of the comedic elements border on the ridiculous. The romance itself is only mildly developed, though Kerry’s awkwardness will be amusing and relatable to younger audiences. Most disappointing, though, is the mystery’s denouement, which features a villain who acts more like a cartoon than a fully realized character. One solid plus is the friendship displayed between Kerry and Annie, and it’s fun to watch them discover that the popular crowd are more down-to-earth than initially expected.
VERDICT Younger teens may enjoy this whodunit but more mature audiences will likely find it too simplistic.

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