Annie Marck of Cleveland (Ohio) meets Henry of Lancaster (Indiana) at a summer Overachievers Camp. He nicknames her “Cleves” and they quickly bond as best friends. Their quirky friendship deepens during the second summer’s Overachievers Camp, after which Anne’s family relocates and she finds herself starting her senior year at Lancaster High. There she is quickly absorbed into the popular crowd and welcomed into the Hampton Court cafeteria society due to her association with well-rounded, ambitious Henry, who for all practical purposes reigns as king of the school.
Henry has problems keeping girlfriends, who sport names such as Catalina Trastamara Aragon-Castilla (get it?), Anna Boleyn, Jane Seymour and the like. In fact, he runs through six girlfriends, including Cleves, who has a brief month-long romantic relationship with him. He is jealous and distrustful of his girlfriends and overreacts when he suspects betrayal. Two of his girlfriends actually meet untimely ends: one is killed in a tower explosion caused by a strategically-placed fireworks “bomb” and another falls off a drainage pipe and breaks her neck falling into a river. Suspicions increase about the deaths of the two girlfriends, and Cleves is drawn into an investigation of Henry by her friends. They plot to get to the truth before another girlfriend meets a disastrous end.
All of this is narrated by Cleves in fast-paced snarky high-school banter that takes nothing seriously, including murder, sexual amorality, emotional and physical abuse, sexist double-standards, and excessive teenage drinking. That’s okay up to a point, because the book is meant to be farcical, but it gets tiresome. The characters are lacking in any depth whatsoever until the last thirty pages or so, and plot development is silly. Bad language (fuck, shit, ass-whatever, damn, hell, religious expletives) is found throughout. Students enthralled by this historical period will no doubt be amused by the literary references but casual readers most likely will miss them.
Don’t waste your library dollars on this one.
Categories: Bullying, Controversial YA Topics, Crime, Death and Grieving, Dysfunctional Relationships, Historical Fiction, Mental Health, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Social Media, Summer Camps, Violence