WHO KILLED GRETCHEN MEYER?
Fear grips the residents of Hidden Falls the night Sonia Feldman and her best friend, Gretchen Meyer, are attacked in the woods. Sonia was lucky to escape with her life, but Gretchen’s body is discovered at the bottom of a waterfall. Beautiful, popular, and seemingly untouchable, Gretchen can’t be gone. Even as Sonia struggles with guilt and confusion over having survived, the whole town is looking to her for information…could she have seen something that will lead the police to the killer?
At the top of the list of suspects is Gretchen’s ex-boyfriend—and Sonia’s longtime enemy—Marcus Perez. So when Marcus comes to Sonia for help clearing his name, she agrees, hoping to find evidence the police need to prove he’s the killer. But as Gretchen’s many secrets emerge and the suspects add up, Sonia feels less sure of Marcus’s involvement, and more afraid for herself. Could Marcus, the artist, the screwup, the boy she might be falling for have attacked her? Killed her best friend? And if it wasn’t him in the woods that night…who could it have been?
With a friend like Gretchen Meyer, who needs enemies?
We have another murder mystery with Take The Fall by Emily Hainsworth. We start the story off with our heroine running for her life from some unseen attacker and it goes kind of downhill from there. The beginning is exciting and interesting but the rest of the plot is repetitive and monotonous. It was frustrating and annoying. I was not impressed with Sonia’s lackluster Nancy Drew impression. The more we learned of Gretchen, the less I cared about her death. It seemed she’d fucked her way through every male in town and had blackmail material on everyone else. As more of Gretchen’s horrid personality was revealed, I was wondering why everybody was bothering to investigate her murder. The whole town was probably thinking “good riddance”.
So many freaking characters. Several times, somebody would pop up and I’d be like “Wait? Who was that again?” I had a theory about who the killer was before the half way point and was disappointed to find I was right. Hainsworth was trying for shock factor and originality but fell short. I had no sympathy for Gretchen and thus had no problem figuring out the killer. If Gretchen had not been so universally horrid to everybody in Hidden Falls, including her own sister and best friend, I might have been more mislead.
The first half of Take The Fall was enjoyable to read but as the book progressed, the plot became too circular and I became bored. An unsympathetic murder victim left me uncaring about finding the perpetrator. I did like the use of POC characters, including a Latina main character and a Middle Eastern supporting character. Take The Fall was dark and twisted, showcasing the worst of teenage humanity. Some may find the open-ended conclusion disappointing. I was fine with it but others disliked it. I didn’t love Take The Fall by Emily Hainsworth, it lacked a spark to really make it fantastic, but it was an entertaining read. If you really like murder mysteries, you should give it a try.
A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson
Published: September 8th 2015 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Format: Paper Book
Length: 340 pages
Genre: Mystery, Magic, Fantasy, Poverty
Rating: 3.5 stars
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In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy have all the magic they desire while the working class can barely afford a simple spell to heat their homes. Twelve-year-old Isaveth is poor, but she’s also brave, loyal, and zealous in the pursuit of justice—which is lucky, because her father has just been wrongfully arrested for murder.
Isaveth is determined to prove her innocence. Quiz, the eccentric eyepatch-wearing street boy who befriends her, swears he can’t resist a good mystery. Together they set out to solve the magical murder of one of Tarreton’s most influential citizens and save Isaveth’s beloved Papa from execution.
But each clue is more perplexing than the next. Was the victim truly killed by Common Magic—the kind of crude, cheap spell that only an unschooled magician would use—or was his death merely arranged to appear that way? And is Quiz truly helping her out of friendship, or does he have hidden motives of his own? Isaveth must figure out who she can trust if she’s to have any hope of proving her Papa’s innocence in time. . .
A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson was a predictable but enjoyable read. The main character, Isaveth, was a touch annoying to me; too much of a goody two shoes and a special snowflake. The identity of Quiz was fairly obvious, as was the ‘bad guy’. I liked the world building and the magical system Anderson created. The creation of a kitchen witchery system with spells baked into cakes was neat and inventive. (Magic cookies!) The book centers on a lot of politics, which is interesting to see in a middle grade book. This is also the second book I’ve read lately with strong themes of racism and prejudice; this time focusing on the religious. Isaveth and her family are Moshite; a fantasy parallel used in place of Judaism and, in my mind, Islam. The Moshite are treated as lower class and denied jobs and resources due to their religion, even among the other poor people living in the same slums they are living in. Like The Lightning Queen by Laura Reasu, this book is an examination of class, poverty, and racism, this time in a magical setting.
My favorite part is Isaveth using fanfiction as a coping mechanism. Deprived of her favorite mode of entrainment and relaxation when her family is forced to sell their radio, Isaveth writes her own stories for the radio play she usually listens to. I was tickled to see fanfiction represented here. I also liked the moral implications of Annagail and Isaveth denying their religion just to be treated fairly. By merely hiding the most visible indication of their religion, their Mother’s prayer scarf, Annagail is able to get a better job as a maid, rather than slaving away in a sweatshop. It brings into harsh light how irrational and arbitrary racism and prejudice is. Meggery, the head maid, likes Annagail but as soon as she finds out she is Moshite, Meggery fires Annagail, although Annagail is the same person she always was. It shows how ugly bigotry is.
The downside to A Pocket Full of Murder was a messy plot and an unsurprising outcome. I don’t see why a second book is necessary. It should have ended with Quiz retrieving the recording bracelet and the bad guy being exposed, his political ambitions ruined. This book would have worked perfectly as a stand-alone, had it been finished properly, and now I fear it’s going to be beaten to death as a series. The magical system, while neat, is not really important to the overall story and the pace can be a bit slow in places. In all, A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson had good bones but just an ok performance.