Contemporary Young Adult
Available October 11th
Received for review through Teen Book Scene
Today did not go well for Hartley. Not only did she find out she was the last one in school to know her boyfriend was sleeping with the head of the chastity club, but when she went to confront him about it, she discovered said chastity failure dead in his closet.
To make things worse, her cheating boyfriend decides to show up in her bedroom after dodging custody to plead for her forgiveness and, more importantly, her help in proving his innocence. Despite her anger and hurt, Hartley knows Josh isn't a murderer and agrees to help him though she is certainly no detective.
With the assistance of her best friend Sam as well as the bad-boy editor for the school's online newspaper, Hartley attempts to track down anyone besides her who might have had a grudge against the chastity queen and would try to frame Josh. Before long though more bodies start to pile up and Hartley and her team are no closer to helping Josh, but they are, however, a whole lot closer to becoming targets themselves.
Deadly Cool is one of those stories whose spine should only be cracked when there is plenty of time to read as it grabs us from the very first page and keeps us laughing and voraciously consuming every moment of Hartley's tale until we regrettably reach the end. Our friendship with Hartley forms instantaneously when our sense of female solidarity leaps to the forefront at Hartley's discovery of Josh's infidelity, and we puff up in righteous indignation while silently encouraging her to act on our behalf as though we were the wronged party. From our initial loyalty grows genuine affection, and we spend the remainder of the book shaking our heads in good humor at her antics while trying to anticipate the killer's every action as our own inner detective joins in the fun.
Hartley is a young woman who beautifully embodies her age, acting in a mature enough way as to be relatable to older fans of young adult fiction but also not so much so that she becomes unbelievable as a teenager. She's witty and genuinely hilarious, satisfying our vicarious anger at Josh's betrayal by releasing her feelings in a torrent of choice adjectives, but also curbing her emotional turmoil quickly to logically focus on the more monumental of the multiple problems in her life. She doesn't spontaneously morph into an inexplicable super-sleuth who uncovers clues the police themselves cannot to solve the case single-handedly in a show of magnificent intellectual prowess, instead she fumbles along making mistakes and gaining little ground, entertaining us with her humor and realism all the while.
There's just a touch of romance accompanying the mystery element, her partnership with Chase of the bad-boy-appearance-but-adorable-personality variety one filled with both awkwardness and so much potential we can hardly read fast enough to see what happens, if anything, between them. Ms. Halliday allows us to hold the relationship cookie and take that first delectable nibble in this book, but then yanks it out of our hands and places it out of reach somewhere in the depths of the second installment where it will continue to taunt us until we can get our hands on it yet again. Chase and Hartley's banter is a joy to read, acting as a balm to the burn caused by Josh's general idiocy and intimate betrayal, and we are thankful for his and Sam's presence to keep us smiling giddily despite the fact that a killer is on the loose and closing in.
For those looking for an all-around amusing caper with a less-than qualified trio of investigators who make every page immensely gratifying, then add Deadly Cool to your reading lists immediately. We are given a real conclusion to this story even though there's a sequel in the works, and we close the last page with light hearts and sore cheeks from our perma-grins. Ms. Halliday has written a brilliant young adult debut, earning herself a solid place on my must-read list.