THE BIGGEST STORY OF MY LIFE COULD BE HOW IT ENDS It’s my turn to run a “Campus News” crew, and I’ve put together a team that can break stories wide open. And Washington Irving High has a truly great one to cover, if only we can find a lead.
A secret society has formed in our school. It announced its presence with pranks: underwear on the flagpole, a toilet in the hallway, cryptic notes. A circle of silence keeps the society a mystery. No one knows its members, agenda or initiation secrets-until a student lands in the hospital under “strange” circumstances.
I “will” blow this story wide open and stop others from being hurt…or worse. And while my ex, Jagger, might want to help, I don’t trust him yet. (And, no, not because of our past together. That is “not” important to this story.)
But whether you find me, Valerie Gaines, reporting in front of the camera, or a victim in the top story of the newscast…be sure to watch “Campus News” at 9:00 a.m. this Friday.
While this is the second book in Tanzman’s WiHi series, there will be no spoilers here for dancergirl, which I reviewed yesterday. With the exception of a few crossover character interactions, they basically read as standalone books.
Much like dancergirl, Circle of Silence was a mixed bag for me. Overall I really did like it. The plot is interesting and the pacing is good, and while it’s not precisely my beloved girl detective genre, girl reporter comes pretty close. It’s a girl working to solve a mystery, so I’ll count it. I also like the way Ms. Tanzman makes New York City a character in the book. Lots of landmarks, neighborhoods, etc. Valerie was a good main character – she’s very focused on her journalism but not completely one dimensional about it. There was lots of good suspense throughout and I thought the story wrapped up nicely, meaning NO FREAKING CLIFFHANGER. Hallelujah.
But that said, there were things that I didn’t care for about it. The first and most glaring is Bethany, Valerie’s sister, who has a fairly large role in the book. Yikes. I can’t remember the last time I encountered a character who was so thoroughly unlikeable. And while I think you’re supposed to feel sorry for her because she’s just a lonely kid who’s kind of socially awkward and living in the shadow of her sister, I didn’t. At all. Because there was never any reason to. She was just a heinous cretin, and not in the “Oh, she’s just 14, everyone that age is moody” way. In the “holy crap, this kid is awful and I’d murder her face if I had to spend 15 seconds in her presence” way.
I also am leery of the whole “outsiders are dangerous” trope in YA. While we don’t know who is behind the crimes until the very end of the book, we do get the perspective of the group leader all along and s/he makes it clear that this is some kind of revenge for being an outcast. I certainly think that there are some dangerous loners, don’t get me wrong, but I suspect that most kids like that are just trying to get through school and on with their lives. In my experience, popular kids are far more likely to be evil (and that’s coming from someone who was considered a popular kid in high school).
And this is just a personal note, but I disliked the way the love triangle was handled. I felt like someone as tenacious and goal-oriented as Valerie would have stuck to her guns a little more in certain situations. But really, that’s a pretty minor complaint.
So basically, I would say this book is recommended with reservations. There’s certainly plenty to like about it and it’s a quick, interesting read. It had its drawbacks but nothing that made me want to put it down.