Thursday, October 22, 2015

Trouble is a Friend of Mine

Trouble is a Friend of Mine
Stephanie Tromly
Penguin, 2015  337 pgs
Grades 9-Up

Zoe moves from New York City to a small town in upstate New York after her parents divorce. She is living with her mom, but is still very influenced by her father, who is campaigning to have her attend a posh private school in the city. Zoe is befriended by a strange boy named Digby, who wears ill-fitting suits, is too smart for his own good and is constantly hungry. Through Digby Zoe also meets football hunk Henry with whom she becomes instantly smitten. Henry's cheerleader girlfriend Sloane finds Zoe to be a threat and lavishes her with mean girl behavior. Digby is an amateur detective and he recruits Zoe to help him locate the whereabouts of a missing teenager named Marina. Digby is obsessed with finding Marina because he thinks the case is linked to a similar disappearance of his younger sister ten years prior. Henry is also recruited and the three friends search for clues, break laws for the good of the case, and get in lots of trouble along the way. Many suspects emerge such as a sleazy gynecologist who secretly films his patients, the school bully, and a weird cult of seemingly Amish people who live across the street from Zoe. Meanwhile, Mom has started dating and the identity of the new suitor remains unknown, creating a bonus mystery. The night of the big school dance takes the case (and the book) to its climax. A night of adventures and misadventures leads our super sleuths to the missing teenager, as well as the identity of Mom's new beau. The mysteries surrounding Digby's constant hunger and lifestyle choices are also revealed, as is Digby's feelings for Zoe, which are confusing to her throughout the book. The whereabouts of Digby's missing sister remains a mystery, perhaps leading us to a future sequel.

I spent the past two months reading an adult mystery that was well reviewed and looked interesting. The book was over 700 pages long and had tiny print. I finally struggled to the end only to find that the main mystery was left unsolved. I furiously read over the last bit thinking I must have missed something. Nope, no solution. I felt betrayed by wasting all of that precious time only to have no closure. In contrast, Tromly leaves us with a satisfactory mystery with a proper amount of clues, suspects, and red herrings. The book reads quickly and surprises and plot twists keep the reader turning pages. Other subplots are included in the book, but they are relevant to the main point of the story, assist with character development, and don't weigh the book down. Zoe is a character with whom teen girls will identify. There is an element of romance to the book, but it doesn't overwhelm the mystery. Zoe's love triangle is resolved (more or less) on the last two pages in a satisfying way. The best part of Trouble is a Friend of Mine is the humor and banter of the characters throughout the pages. I laughed out loud in several places and felt entertained from start to finish. It is a book that is truly fun to read, which after slogging through the above mentioned adult book came as a welcome breath of fresh air. Tromly is a clever author and, as this is her first novel, one to watch.

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