Strange Lies

352p. S. & S./Simon Pulse Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481462037.
Gr 9 Up—The teens at Winship Academy return for their latest mystery: who staged the bizarre deer antler attack at the science expo that nearly killed DeAndre? Sleuths Benny and Virginia employ their Mystery Club (of two) to uncover the truth. Benny quickly suspects a hate crime as DeAndre is one of the only African Americans at Winship. Secret drug deals in the girls' bathroom, the unexplained suspension of a student, and the creepy Headmaster's abusive relationship with his equally creepy son prove threads leading to the truth, yet other plotlines lead nowhere. Benny and Virginia are consumed with solving the mystery for the mystery's sake, not for justice. As in Strange Truth, they discover a murderer in their midst and do nothing but effectively shrug. Thrash employs stereotypes of spoiled, rich white teens; and racist, sexist Southern culture. The only black character is the victimized, poor football player hailing from a family of rubes (in an especially offensive portrayal, DeAndre's uncle cries, "They got real ham biscuits!") who almost completely lacks a voice. In an outlandish scene, a parent-sanctioned, student-run fundraiser involves auctioning tequila shots off girls' stomachs—and all the girls are flattered. The author weaves suspense throughout, but ultimately, these tropes are introduced without nuance and deeper exploration.
VERDICT The offensive stereotypes and flat, narcissistic characters demean this book's audience.

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