Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ten Book Review

Author: Gretchen McNeil. Release date: 2012. Publisher: Balzer + Bray. ISBN: 9780062118783.

Annotation: Meg and her best friend Minnie have been invited to the party of the year at the isolated vacation home of the uber-popular Jessica Lawrence. Everything seems to be set for a spectacular weekend of fun, but after the guests begin to die in mysterious “accidents,” Meg and the rest of the partygoers must find out if there is a killer in their midst before it’s too late.

Personal thoughts: When I read the book jacket for this novel I was super excited to pick it up. An Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery for teens isn’t something you see every day. Unfortunately, while I found the book to be well-written and there were some creepy moments, I found the mystery to be far too predictable. I am by no means a mystery novel buff or an expert at figuring out who did what, but I had the plot figured out a few chapters in. I’m not sure if the mystery was intentionally not too complicated, but there really was no suspense. I do think that this book might be a good choice for a reluctant reader or for a teen who has never experienced a murder mystery novel, but other than that I would skip this one.   

Plot summary: Meg and her best friend Minnie have been invited to the party of the year at the isolated vacation home of the uber-popular Jessica Lawrence. Jessica’s family owns a mansion on Henry Island off the coast of Washington, and only a select group received the invitation to stay at the parentless house for the weekend. Meg is used to being in Minnie’s shadow, especially when it comes to handsome football-star T.J. Fletcher.  Minnie has been trying to get with T.J. for years, but Meg has never told her that she is secretly in love with him as well. To Meg’s surprise, T.J. was also invited to Jessica’s party, along with his best friend, and Minnie’s ex, Gunner, and nine other people. Although there’s a storm raging outside and they’re the only house around, everything seems set for a weekend of fun. Meg soon realizes, however, that the party is not what it seems. The guests begin to die in mysterious ways one-by-one, each death accompanied by a slash painted in dripping red on the wall. It soon becomes clear that everyone who was invited to the party is there for a reason, and that there is a murderer in the house who is seeking vengeance. But what is the link between the partygoers, and can they survive long enough to determine who the killer is?

Review: In the vein of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None comes this story by veteran author Gretchen McNeil. Murder mysteries are not something you find too often in young adult literature, and the McNeil puts up a valiant effort in transforming this concept for a young adult audience. While there are some genuinely creepy moments in the novel and it is well-written, the mystery of the killer’s identity and why the party guests were invited to the house on Henry Island is, unfortunately, very obvious from the beginning of the story. Since the primary objective of the book is to keep the reader guessing as to how the events will unfold, the fact that there isn’t much mystery diminishes the good points of the novel. The relationship between Meg and her best friend Minnie is interesting, particularly since Minnie struggles with bipolar disorder and Meg is her self-imposed caretaker. Expanding on this aspect of the story would have added a lot more depth, but the author never really gets into it at more than a surface level. The romance between Meg and T.J. is also enjoyable, but never gets a chance to truly blossom either, with the author focusing more on the murders. For teens who have never read a mystery or who want something that goes by quickly, Ten is a good option that will, at least, keep them entertained. For readers who want something with a little more depth, however, there isn’t enough meat on the bones of this novel to make it a worthwhile read.

Genre:  Mystery

Reading level: Grade 8+

Similar titles: Empty Coffin series by Gregg Olsen, I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga.  

Themes:  Murder, mystery, revenge, friendship, suicide.

Awards/Reviews:  Positive review from School Library Journal and Booklist.  

Series Information: N/A

Discussion questions:

-         How would you describe Meg and Minnie’s relationship? Have you ever had a friend like Minnie?

-          If you were Meg, would you have gone to the party? Why or why not?

-         Do you think Meg did the right thing in not going to Homecoming with T.J.? Why or why not?

-         Who was your favorite of the partygoers? Your least favorite? Why? Do you think any of them deserved to be killed?

-         Were you surprised to learn the identity of the killer? Why do you think they did what they did?

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