Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Book Review: The Amateurs by Sara Shepard

Book: The Amateurs 

Author: Sara Shepard 

Pages: 336

Read on: Kindle 

Read in: 3.5 hours 

Plot Summary: When Aerin Kelly was eleven, she idolised her seventeen-year-old sister, Helena, and they did everything together. They made Claymation movies and posted them to YouTube. They made fun of Windmere-Carruthers, the private school they attended, they invented new flavours for their parents' organic ice cream shop, and they dressed up their golden retriever, Buster. 

But when Helena went into senior year things started to change. Rather than being Aerin's inseparable sister, she started to push her away. Then, on a snowy winter's day, Helena vanished. 

Four years later, Helena's body is found. Wracked with grief and refusing to give up on her sister, Aerin spends months trying to figure out what exactly happened to Helena and who killed her. But the police have no leads. 

A young, familiar officer named Thomas wants to help and suggests she checks out a website called Case Not Closed. Hesitantly, she posts, and when teenagers Seneca and Maddox show up on her doorstep offering to help investigate she accepts in desperation. 

Both have suffered their own losses and also posted to the site with no luck, so they are hoping this case might be the one they crack. But as their investigation begins, it seems that maybe it's no accident that they are all together, and that maybe the crimes have something - or someone - in common.

General Thoughts: Sara Shepard is the author of Pretty Little Liars- a book series I have not read, but I did watch all the seasons of the TV show. So, going in, I did not expect literary fireworks as I had heard that her writing is not that great (and it wasn't, not in this book, at any rate). However, I did expect a sound depiction of teenage/ young adult group dynamics, which she did deliver on. So, that was what I wanted to get out of the way right at the beginning- this is not some literary fireworks, but this is an interesting book about an interesting premise. 

Things I Liked: 

  • The premise is interesting, of course. A group of true crime aficionados decide to dive into a cold case and attempt to solve it. What's not to love, eh?! The motley crew of teenagers- Seneca, Maddox, Aerin, Maddox's step-sister and Brett- are sort of different from each other and are not connected apart from Maddox and Seneca being friends on the true crime discussion board- Case Not Closed. The way these five strangers band together to solve Helena's murder is quite interesting. 
  • The way the amateur detectives go about retracing Helena's steps, finding new clues, chasing out some obvious leads is quite interesting. However, it does make the local police seem really inefficient bad! 
  • There is a twist in this book and it is kinda obvious, but chops to the author of thinking it up and doing a decent job of incorporating it in the story. 
  • Seneca and Maddox are most likeable and relatable of the characters but Aerin sort of grows on you. Aerin is very reminiscent of the PLL mean girls- rich, blonde, gorgeous but mean- and so, not very original character building happening here. 

Things I Didn't Like:
  • The writing is quite basic. In fact, it lacks style and is very flat. Gets in the way of enjoying the book, but one can learn to ignore it. 
  • This book could've been so much more! Imagine the possibilities that a premise like this could present to a great author! There could've been so much more investigation, so many more red herrings and the twist could've been handled a lot better! 
  • Like I said, these kids find so many new clues in a matter of days! So, what was the police department doing on an investigation, which had managed to capture the interest and attention of the whole nation?! How could they have missed some very obvious clues about Helena's behaviour in the months leading up to her disappearance? Nothing worse than such ridiculous loopholes in crime writing!

Rating: 2.5/5

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