Saturday, September 5, 2009

Review: Reality Check by Peter Abrahams

Found via: BBYA 2010 nominations

It took a little searching to confirm my hunch, but Peter Abrahams started his writing career with mystery novels for adults. Then apparently he took a turn into young-teen mystery writing before producing Reality Check, a mystery novel for older teens. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but the tone and writing style of this novel definitely evoked more of an "adult" novel than a YA novel. There was a bit of...restraint in the narration, that's the best I can put it. A restraint we don't usually see in YA novels. There's always a bit of distance between our narrator and what's happening in the novel.

At the beginning of his junior year, the most important recruiting season for college football, Cody sustains a potentially career-ending knee injury; at the very least he's going to be on the bench for the rest of the season. What a way to start the year. To add insult to his injury, his rich girlfriend, Clea, has been shipped off to an East Coast boarding school, in part to keep her away from the decidedly-working-class Cody. Cody breaks up with Clea before she leaves, drops out of school, and settles into a job with a local landscaper - and halfway figures that's going to be the rest of his life, since without football college is definitely not an option.

But not too long after she leaves, Clea is reported missing out at her school. Cody, despite being unsure what his feelings for Clea are, knows he needs to go out there to help in the search. He drives from Colorado and Vermont, hiding who he really is and his relationship with Clea, and joins in the search, even taking a job at the school in the horse stables to stay close to the action.

Out at the school is a cast of suspicious characters, from the eccentric stable hand and Clea's brooding new boyfriend, two rival law enforcement agents, who seem to want conflicting things from Cody. He doesn't know who to trust - or whether Clea is even still alive.

This is a compact, solid mystery novel, though I felt the ending fell short in the same way that School for Dangerous Girls did - there's a distinct climax, and then a very rushed description of the aftereffects of that climax. Like once the mystery is solved, there's no point in reading any more book. Yes, the journey and figuring out "whodunnit," or even what "it" was, is the point of the story, but I still prefer a satisfying, complete conclusion to the story.
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