Cover of Hysteria, by Megan Miranda. A woman in a red dress holds a picture frame in front of her face. Her head is not there, only the background behind her.

About the Book

Title: Hysteria
Published: 2013

Cover Story: Not a Giant Teen Face
Drinking Buddy:
Pills and Booze Don’t Mix
Testosterone Level:
Hokey Slasher Movie Action
Talky Talk:
Could Have Been Worse
Bonus Factors:
Private School, Persistence of Memory
Bromance Status:
Let’s Just Be Friends and Make No Effort to Ever See Each Other Again

Cover Story: Not a Giant Teen Face

Well, I suppose I should be happy. Every time I review a book cover with a close-up of handsome teen faces, I go on a rant. Obviously that’s not the case here. Mallory is missing part of her memory, so she’s missing her head. And maybe she was FRAMED. Get it?

The Deal:

One night, several months ago, Mallory stabbed her boyfriend, Brian, to death. Right in her kitchen. Those are the facts. But her lawyer was able to make it an open and shut case of self-defense. After all, Brian broke into her house and was knocking her around. It was her only option. Obviously, this doesn’t make Mallory popular with Brian’s friends and family, but what choice did she have?

The thing is, parts of that night are missing. Why, exactly, did Brian break in? Was stabbing him her only option?

Mallory’s parents decide to send her off to a private boarding school–her father’s alma mater–so she can start her life over. There she meets a dreamy guy named Reid. Can she truly put the past behind her?

No. Something has followed her to school. Someone is breaking into her room. Messing with her things. Leaving hand prints on her door. Parking their somehow familiar car just off school grounds.

Is it Brian’s mother, who became unbalanced after the loss of her son? Is it one of the popular girls, determined to give the strange new girl a hard time? Is Reid really the nice guy he appears to be? Or has Brian never truly gone away?

Or maybe Mallory is just sleepwalking and imagining things.

Drinking Buddy: Pills and Booze Don’t Mix

Two pints of beer cheersing

Mallory has a hard time sleeping, so she takes pills to help her doze. And then she wakes up to ghostly fingers around her neck, or an incoherent confession from a classmate that they deny in the morning. So the next night she takes more pills and repeats the scenario again.

Also, studly athlete Reid keeps throwing himself at her, and while she tells the reader how much she likes him, in the book she just keeps running off in a panic. And her investigation of the mystery consists mostly of e-mailing her old friend about how much she misses her.

I would have liked a much more proactive heroine.

Testosterone Level: Hokey Slasher Movie Action

Oh, there was action galore, trust me. Mysterious fog, faceless crimes, suspicion and intrigue, and a gripping whodunnit. However, it all felt rather flat, like a low-budget horror movie. Even the intense scenes, like when Brian is bleeding to death on the floor, asking Mallory ‘why?’ with his eyes as his life trickles away…I still wasn’t gripped.

Talky Talk: Could Have Been Worse

Still, this was an interesting read. The author does a great job of keeping us in the dark about the true nature of things until the very end. The secondary characters were well-developed and I found myself constantly guessing who or what was behind all the mysterious goings on. If Mallory had been more active in solving the mystery, instead of popping pills and hiding, this book would have been an out and out winner.

Also, Mallory wins the Jim Hawkins award for accidentally overhearing the most compromising private conversations.

Bonus Factor: Private School

Regal old boarding school building with turrets and ivy on the stone walls

Mallory’s family ships her away to a fancy pants private academy in New England. Now as a graduate of public school, I always imagined these places with a kind of awe, sort of a combination of Hogwarts and the Delta House. While Mallory’s prep school isn’t exactly like that, it is co-ed, so you can imagine what it’s like when a bunch of horny teenagers are left unsupervised.

Did I say unsupervised? No, of course there are rigid rules and constant oversight. And the kids aren’t nearly wily enough to get around that, right?


Bonus Factor: The Persistence of Memory

Outline of a human head with smaller and smaller outlines inside it

Mallory killed Brian. But why? She can’t seem to remember. Or she won’t remember. Or she’s remembering that night in a way that justifies what she did.

What’s going on here? Killing your boyfriend isn’t something that would slip your mind. Miranda does a great job of exploring how our brain can play tricks on us, and memory can be a slippery thing.

Bromance Status: Let’s Just Be Friends and Make No Effort to Ever See Each Other Again

Yeah, well, it’s been interesting. I certainly kept turning the pages, wanted to know how things turned out. But now that it’s all over…well, let’s just be buds. The kind who don’t actually hang around together or anything.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received no money for writing this review. Did I? I didn’t, did I?

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.