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Don’t Leave It To The Professionals

Nancy Drew meets Reddit with the launch of Sara Shepard's new mystery series, The Amateurs.

Don’t Leave It To The Professionals

BOOK REPORT for The Amateurs (The Amateurs #1) by Sara Shepard

Cover Story: Amateur Hour
BFF Charm: Mehk It Rain
Swoonworthy Scale: 5
Talky Talk: Juicy
Bonus Factors: My Favorite Murder, Mystery
Relationship Status: Killer Fling

Cover Story: Amateur Hour

Okay, I get the fingerprint typeface, because this book is about a group of teenagers trying to solve a murder. But the rest of the artwork makes it look like they're sleuthing... on stage in a musical. The coordinating yellow wardrobe? The dramatic shadows? I can hear the chorus now: "I found a clue, how about you? Let's give chase, so we can crack the case!" [DANCE INTERLUDE] 

The Deal

Plenty of us are obsessed with podcasts like Serial and My Favorite Murder or shows like The Forensic Files. But what if you were so into true crime, you decided to try your hand at solving a case?

Seneca Frazier practically lives on a site called Case Not Closed (*cough* Reddit *cough*), and though she's supposed to be focused on college, she's really just studying unsolved murders. So when she sees a request for help from Aerin Kelly, the sister of Helena, a girl who disappeared (and whose body was later found) over five years ago, she's seized with a desire to discover the truth along with her online bestie, Maddox. The latter lives in the same town as Aerin, which makes things easier, but Maddox is actually a "he," which makes things awwwwkward when Seneca shows up expecting a sleepover of a different kind. Joined by Brett, another regular on the site, and grudgingly supported by Aerin, Seneca and Maddox begin to unravel the tangled web of lies surrounding Helena's fate, only to discover that the killer might just be in their midst... and ready to strike again.

BFF Charm: Mehk It Rain

Let's be clear, I didn't read this book for the character development. Everyone is perfectly likeable, of course; you've got the feisty smart girl in Seneca, the party queen with a soul in Aerin, the hot jock with a heart of gold in Maddox and the sweetheart underdog in Brett. Together they make for a solid Scooby Gang, but Sara Shepard's attempts to give them emotional depth at best make for some ABC Family (excuse me, Freeform) moments and at worst trip up the momentum of the mystery.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

It will come as no surprise that Maddox and Seneca are attracted to each other, but they have to fight their feelings because, I don't know, they're teenagers? Meanwhile, Bret is pining after Aerin, who is crushing on a super cute cop named Thomas (get it, girl), and everyone is pretty much miserable in the romance department, so seriously, maybe get back to the sleuthing already!

Talky Talk: Juicy

Thanks to the brisk pacing and tense energy, it's all too easy to gobble up this book in the span of a few hours. I never read Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars series (nor do I watch the show--I KNOW, I know) but I imagine she's utilizing the same skills here, and the result is a soapy, thrilling read with plenty of eye-widening twists.

Bonus Factor: My Favorite Murder

I heard about My Favorite Murder earlier this year, and as person obsessed with true crime (I mean, who isn't these days?), I immediately became a swimfan of Georgia and Karen's hilarious conversations about killers and their unfortunate victims. Yeah, you read that right, it's a comedy podcast. These women know murders like some people know sports stats, and I dug reading about characters with that same, uh, sensibility.

Bonus Factor: Mystery

Who killed Helena Kelly? Discovering the answer to that question takes Seneca & Co. on a roller coaster of an investigation, and I had a blast trying to put the pieces together. Major pants to Shepard for tying it all together with an ending that I did NOT. SEE. COMING.

Casting Call:

Zoë Kravitz as Seneca

Blake Jenner as Maddox

Elle Fanning as Aerin

Amadeus Serafini as Brett

Relationship Status: Killer Fling

Book, our time together may have lacked substance, but I was too wrapped up in your mystery to care. You kept me on my toes with unexpected reveals and tantalizing layers of deception, and although I'm not interested in continuing to be the Watson to your Sherlock, your profile in my case files is elementary complimentary, my dear.  

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Freeform, but got neither cocktails nor money in exchange for this review (dammit). The Amateurs is available now.

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).