by Sara Shepard
Published on November 1, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads: Five years ago, high school senior Helena Kelly disappeared from her backyard in Dexby, Connecticut, never to be heard from again. Her family was left without any answers—without any idea who killed Helena, or why. So when eighteen-year-old Seneca Frazier sees a desperate post on the Case Not Closed message board, she knows it’s time to change that. Helena’s high-profile disappearance is the one that originally got Seneca addicted to true crime. It’s the reason she’s a member of the site in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, she agrees to spend spring break in Connecticut working on the case with Maddy Wright, her best friend from Case Not Closed. However, the moment she steps off the train, things start to go wrong. Maddy’s nothing like she expected, and Helena’s sister, Aerin, doesn’t seem to want any help after all. Plus, Seneca has a secret of her own, one that could derail the investigation if she’s not careful. Alongside Brett, another super-user from the site, they slowly begin to unravel the secrets Helena kept in the weeks before her disappearance. But the killer is watching…and determined to make sure the case stays cold.My take: While I'm a big fan of the TV series made from Shepard's books with Alloy Entertainment, I haven't been as big a fan of the books themselves. The Pretty Little Liars books felt geared to the younger end of the YA market, and I found that I much preferred the fact that in The Lying Game show, both twins were alive. I'm sorry The Lying Game was cancelled!
When I started The Amateurs, I thought it would fall into that same pattern ("I'll wait for the show"). But after finishing the book, I'm not so sure. This book is a little different than Shepard's previous YAs. The characters are all out of high school -- most are freshmen in college. Most of the characters are also regulars on a true crime message board called Case Not Closed. All these developments were positive ones for me -- I was hoping that The Amateurs would be Serial for the YA set.
The negatives? The Amateurs had a ton of characters -- and friends and siblings and love interests -- so many that I had to keep a list. Most of the characters' names were (amusingly) straight out of Millennial Pop Culture -- Heath and Aerin and Maddox. For a while, the plot of this was a little snoozy. Most of the time, the characters ran around upscale Connecticut hunting down clues -- all that was missing was that groovy Mystery Machine!
But the end of the book had a twist that I thought was pretty interesting, a twist that may actually get me to try future books in this series. But then again (highlight for spoiler) if "Brett" turns out to be just another "A" like in PLL, I'm out. I'm so over A that I can't even. (end spoiler). I guess we will see!