Twins Ellery and Ezra Corcoran are relocating temporarily to live with their grandmother in small, picture-perfect Echo Ridge, Vermont, while their mother, Sadie, completes a four-month drug rehabilitation program in California. Ellery is particularly interested in Echo Ridge because she is a murder-mystery enthusiast, and Echo Ridge is famous for (1) the disappearance of her mom’s twin, Sarah, the night of her high school homecoming, and (2) the murder of homecoming queen Lacey Kilduff just five years previously. Neither case has been solved. In addition, Ellery puzzles over other mysteries in her life: Is her father really a mysterious stuntman (whose name Sadie can’t recall) who spent only two hours with her semi-famous actress mother and then disappeared? Why doesn’t her mom ever talk about her twin sister Sarah or answer questions about her life growing up in Echo Ridge? Moving to her grandmother’s home will hopefully give Ellery opportunities to resolve some of these questions.
Driving home from the airport on the night of their arrival, they encounter an unexpected hailstorm that temporarily obscures their vision. When it clears, they come across a body lying in the middle of the road that turns out to be a popular high school science teacher who has been run over and killed. Although it appears to have been an accident, no one comes forward, and a police investigation ensues. Meanwhile at the high school, homecoming preparations are gearing up even though the school year has barely begun. Threatening acts of vandalism are appearing in the local graveyard and in other locations that warn of danger to the homecoming queen candidates.
Ellery and her brother Ezra settle in, making friends and finding part-time work at the Halloween amusement park Fright City (previously called Murderland). As they do so, accelerating violent and mysterious events propel them towards some eye-opening revelations about their mother, their father and their newly-established relationships with others in the town. It’s a fast, exciting read with some great unexpected surprises. There is, of course, violence, but most of it is described after the fact, except for the big wind-up confrontation between the murderer and Ellery and her boyfriend Malcolm. Sexual references are just about nonexistent, with only one brief mention of homecoming sex between Sadie and her date. Romantic feelings, however, arise between several characters, and Ezra’s failed gay relationship at his past high school is mentioned.
Offensive language is generally found on every couple of pages, including frequent use of religious profanity invoking the name of Jesus Christ. This is regrettable because it knocks what could serve as a good and popular book off the shelves of many a public school library. What can I say? Writers do a disservice to their own material by including an excessive amount of offensive language that really isn’t integral to the narrative but precludes its purchase by a sizable number of consumers.
Categories: Addiction, Bullying, Controversial YA Topics, Crime, Death and Grieving, Diversity, Dysfunctional Relationships, Grief, LGBTQIA, Mental Health, Mysteries, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Theatre & Film, Violence