Cover of Endangered by Lamar Giles. A multi-racial teen girl runs, framed by a camera lens

About the Book

Title: Endangered
Published: 2015

Cover Story: So This Isn’t a Hunger Games Rip Off?
Drinking Buddy: Fifty Shades of GRAY
Testosterone Estrogen Level: Panda-monium
Talky Talk: Vengence is Mine
Bonus Factors: Diversity, Whodunnit?
Bromance Status: A Friendship Born of Terror

Cover Story: So This Isn’t a Hunger Games Rip Off?

Pro: The cover model is a mixed-race young woman who isn’t sexed up for an action book.

Con: Once again, we don’t have the opportunity to make a mental picture of Lauren. There she is.

The Deal:

So Panda (her real name is Lauren) has tried to become a ghost in her school, ever since Taylor, her jerky ex boyfriend, started a nasty rumor about her. She wants nothing more than to be unnoticed, silent, a nobody.

Except when she gets her camera, puts on her dark clothes, and becomes Gray. Gray sneaks out at night. Follows people. Finds out their secrets. Takes pictures. Posts them on her website, Grayscales.

Oh, she doesn’t do this to be mean. It’s revenge for those who cannot stand up for themselves. So a football player is cruelly and publicly outed as gay. But the kid who outed him secretly likes to cosplay as Boy Wonder. And Panda has the pictures to prove it. Or the popular girl hides the disabled girl’s crutches. Too bad the popular girl is having an extracurricular relationship with the school coach. Say cheese, asshole.

No one knows Gray is behind all this. But everyone reads Grayscales. She has a lot of fans.

And then one day, someone calling himself The Admirer sends her a picture. Of herself. Taking the incriminating photos. The Admirer throws down a challenge to Panda: Impress him. Take some amazing photos.

At first, Panda rises to the challenge, snapping some impressive storm pictures. But then the Admirer shows his crazy side. Bad things start happening to the kids in Panda’s pictures. Someone winds up getting killed. Suddenly, no one is laughing. If the Admirer posts those pictures of Panda anywhere, she’s as good as dead.

Just how far is this going to go?

Drinking Buddy: Fifty Shades of GRAY

Two pints of beer cheersing

I really liked Panda. How many of us wished we could just give some jerk their comeuppance? Let a bully know how it feels to be mocked and helpless? To be the avenging angel, working from the shadows, raining public humiliation on those jerks who used to make fun of you for reading big books and playing the clarinet…

Um, that happened to a friend of mine.

At any rate, Panda was a great character. Especially when the doo doo hits the fan and she has to really has to use her brains to save herself.

Testosterone Estrogen Level: Panda-monium

Standing on the edge of a half-constructed building during a lightning storm? Yep. Hacking a government mainframe with her hated ex boyfriend? Yeah. Hit and run accidents, compromising photos, girl on girl brawls? Oh yeah. Panda’s problem is an intellectual one, but she doesn’t hesitate to interrogate a witness in a fast food joint, break into a crime scene, or make a deal with a sleazy reporter. Mental stuff, but with a lot of hold-your-breath action.

Talky Talk: Vengence is Mine

I really liked this book because it was about a girl who was smart and creative. While there is a little residual smolder with Taylor, it’s all about her intellect and her integrity. Can she really justify being the agent of justice? Maybe some of the kids she took pictures of have their own issues, their own bullies. And the people she ‘helped’…how do they feel about Gray? Maybe they’d rather handle their own problems. And is it right for her to keep her identity secret? Should she keep hiding or come out of the computer closet?

I did find some things hard to believe. Not every jerk gets himself into easily-photographed compromising positions. Some of those kids were almost begging to be found out. And some of the stunts the Admirer pulled really strained my suspension of disbelief. I also disliked Panda’s parents. When they find out about her website, they march her down to the police station so she can confess to her involvement with the dead girl, without a lawyer. When Panda is assaulted, her parents make plans to send her off to live with her aunt (an underdeveloped and underused character). And Lauren is able to sneak out so much because her father is always at the gym–when his daughter is a murder suspect.

Also, my pet peeve of all teachers being dullards shows up here. When Panda is in detention, everyone with a score to settle with her magically also gets detention…and then the teacher leaves. And when he returns to find her in a bloody pool on the floor, she’s the one who gets sent to the principal. Where she’s promptly left alone again.

Still, this was an original plot with likeable characters. I think this fills a nice void for kids who want an action book with a strong female protagonist that’s not set in a dystopia.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

Faces of all different races, ethnicities and genders.

Panda is the daughter of a Black American drill sergeant and a German mother. Panda speaks fluent German, and can pass for either black or white. Taylor comments how her light skin makes people trust her in a way they never trust darker skinned people like him. Panda’s best friend, Ocie, is half white, half Asian. They kind of bond over their mixed heritage.

I think it’s nice that we have books where the character does not fit into an easy slot. Multi-ethnic people are a rapidly growing US demographic, and it’s time literature reflects this.

Bonus Factor: Whoodunit?

Cast of the movie Clue gathered in doorway

I love a good story with a thousand suspects, each with a motive and a shaky alibi. When we finally find out who the Admirer is, I was not disappointed (and I didn’t see it coming).

Bromance Status: A Friendship Born of Terror

I liked this book, but it kind of made me uncomfortable, remembering all the plans for revenge I was too lazy to ever implement. But they’ll pay…oh, they’ll pay.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor booze for writing this review. Now may I please have those photos of me? The negatives too. Look, I was broke, I needed the money…

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.