Written by: Dana Mele
Published: February 27, 2017 by Putnam Books for Young Readers (Penguin Group)
Synopsis: Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she's reinvented herself entirely. Now she's a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl's body is found in the lake, Kay's carefully constructed life begins to topple.
The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay's finally backed into a corner, she'll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make...not something that happened.
I was really looking forward to reading this book. It has a lot of things that I really love including boarding schools, mystery, unlikable protagonists. It should have been a home run. But to continue the baseball analogy because why not, it was only a double. Good but not great.
One thing that I did like was the setting and atmosphere. Boarding school settings are always great for these kinds of stories. Without even really trying to, the author was able to create a mysterious and interesting location to set her book. It wasn’t an over the top creepy old school, the atmosphere was subtle. It felt both modern and mysterious. Plus I love that it was set in New England. I am such a fan of New England (I did just move back to Rhode Island) so of course I love books that are set there. And it felt very New England without being too cliche. Although I could have done without the detective having a think Boston accent, because that is a little too cliche.
The other great things about boarding school stories is that you have characters who spend all day every day together so there is not much to hide. But bless them they try. One of the things that attracted me most to this book is that it had unlikable characters and unreliable narrator. That’s how I like my mysteries. I like when I spend some of not all of the book wondering if the protagonist maybe just did the crime. And while I only briefly suspected Kay, she was my favorite kind of main character. She had secrets that she was trying to keep and it made her complex and intriguing. You don’t find out until close to the end the dark deeds she has in her past. It was a good reveal I just wish that it held a little bit more weight. Maybe learning it sooner would have helped create more tension for me.
But that wasn’t the only reveal that kind of fell flat. I went into this hoping for a complicated and intense mystery. That is not what I got at all. The plot was really very basic and the attempt at a whodunit just didn’t wow me. It tried to make me suspect numerous people throughout the book but I really just saw them for what they were, red herrings. The actual culprit was pretty obvious to me and her reasoning wasn’t even much of a surprise. I know I tend to be pretty good at solving mysteries but this one just didn’t confuse me at all. And all the twists and turns just felt like distractions. I am hard to please when it comes to mysteries though so it’s not that it’s a bad one, it’s just not one that I loved.
One thing I did really like though is the characters. I already mentioned Kay but she wasn’t the only unlikable person in this book. To be honest, it was a little trope-y but I was okay with that. Kay and her friends were kind of your typical “mean girls” but I liked that about them. Basically all the teenage girls were pretty terrible but I liked that they were able to be rude and unlikable. It made for complex characters who you are almost rooting against which makes for an interesting read when people are being murdered. And it made the person who was the culprit feel a little justified in their actions. I mean there is not justification for murder but having someone get their comeuppance is always interesting to watch.
I think what made it so that these characters weren’t just straight up tropes is that this is also a book full of diverse characters. You had different races as well as sexual identities. The book did a good job of handling gay and bisexual characters. Without even realizing it, three out of my last four books have had bisexual MCs. I’m really loving that these kinds of romances are shown and that they’re not always put on a pedestal. In this book there was such a complex romance I’m not even sure if I can call it a love square, maybe a love hexagon. These people just kept changing partners and having crushes on anyone and everyone. And that being said, there really wasn’t much romance in this book, which I even more appreciated.
Oh the whole this was a good read but wasn’t great. If the plot had impressed me more than it did then this would knocked it out of the park (hey, another baseball analogy) but it ended up just being a middle of the road kind of YA mystery.
I give People Like Us by Dana Mele 8 out of 10 stars
Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you like boarding school stories and are looking for one with diverse characters then I think you may like this one. Or if you are looking for a book with unlikable protagonist then check this one out. But if you want a complex mystery that is going to wow you, you should probably look elsewhere.
Have you read People Like Us? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!