Recommended Age: 14+
Genres: Drama, Mystery
Tags: Crime, Diversity, Family, Murder mystery, Racism, Romance, Social media
- Moderate violence: Some physical violence with mild details of murder, physical abuse, and suicide.
- Moderate sexuality: Some kissing scenes and a toxic adult-minor relationship.
- Mild language: Some swearing, racist comments, and allusions to verbal abuse.
Two years ago, Nancy and her friends did something they regretted and now those secrets (among many others) are coming back to haunt them. So when Jamie, the queen bee of the school and Nancy’s ex best friend, goes missing and is later found dead, Nancy and her friends are the top suspects. Nancy will do anything to find Jamie’s murderer, especially if it means keeping some secrets buried.
This is set in New York City and has a very Gossip Girl vibe, but with serious discussions of immigration, what it means to be a second generation American, and the flaws of the education system. It’s a fast paced mystery that is honestly impossible to put down. The descriptions of immigrants and what they go through is really well done, showing both the personal struggle and the way it affects a family as they try to find a balance between being true to their heritage and adjusting to American culture.
The main character, Nancy, has been raised in New York but her parents grew up in China. And though they were fairly successful in China, they moved to New York to give their daughter more opportunities. Now Nancy has spent her whole life being told only perfection is acceptable, and she has to be the best or die trying. She studies constantly, vying for that top spot at the top school. Her classmates are all rich, able to visit China whenever they want, and not have to rely on their grades for success since they have money.
Money is what caused the tension between Nancy and Jamie. Their other friends never flaunted their wealth or used it as a weapon, but Jamie was raised to use everything as a weapon. The two girls have both been pushed to their limit, seeing nothing beyond their need to be the best and brightest.
But when Jamie is found dead, Nancy is affected more than anyone. How can someone so smart with such a bright future die so young? But Nancy knows Jamie has made enemies, enemies who have connections and resources and even worse, access to all their secrets. As Nancy, Krystal, Alexander, and Akil see their secrets posted on social media, they know they need to solve this mystery and hopefully salvage their reputation in the process.
The conversations about the pressure children face in school and the unrealistic expectations placed on them is what really made this book stand out. A murder mystery is always fun, but when you can add depth with family dynamics and character growth, it becomes so much more. This author doesn’t shy away from pointing out unhealthy behaviors expected of high schoolers, as well as the struggles of immigration and racist stereotypes. One of my favorite parts is when the main character is told she is “naturally smarter” because she is Asian, when the truth is she works hard every day to be the top GPA. This author not only knows how to tell a story, she knows how to help minorities see themselves in a story and relate to the characters on a deeper level.
If you like One of Us is Lying and Crazy Rich Asians, you will love this book!
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