Cover of We Know It Was You. Plastic toy girl falling into water

About the Book

Title: We Know It Was You (Strange #1)
Published: 2016
Series: Strange

Cover Story: Creative!
Drinking Buddy:
None of You
MPAA Rating:
PG-13 (suicide, sexual assault, crude humor)
Talky Talk:
Not What I Was Hoping For
Anti-Bonus Factor:
Saved By the Bell/Lord of the Flies Syndrome
Bromance Status:
Won’t Be Around for the Sequel

Cover Story: Creative!

This goes to show that you can design a gripping YA cover without resorting to stock photos or giant teen faces. Just take a little Fisher Price figure, complete with the school’s mascot on the shirt, and viola! Kind of reminds me of the morbid scenarios my sister and I used to create with those same toys.

The Deal:

Right in the middle of a football game, Brittany Montague, the school mascot and one of the most popular girls in school, freaks out and runs off the field. Shortly afterwards she dives off a bridge into the river, still in her full wildcat costume. The school is devastated. What would have driven her to this?

The school Mystery Club is determined to get to the bottom of this. Club President Benny Flax and Virginia Leeds (the club’s only other member) set out to solve a real life mystery.

Drinking Buddy: None of You

Two pints of beer cheersing with a "Denied" stamp over them

Benny is determined to make it as a detective, but there’s a distinct lack of cases at his fancy pants private school. The one time he managed to track down a stolen band instrument, he only succeeded in earning the nickname ‘Scooby.’ If he could find out what drove Brittany to kill herself, maybe people would start respecting his sleuthing skills.

Virginia had a reputation as a gossip girl and is trying to turn herself around, working to discover the truth rather than rumors. She and Benny don’t get along, but together, they make a totally disfunctional and inefficient team.

I didn’t like either of them. Benny comes off as bossy and whiny, while Virginia always seemed flighty and irritating. I think there was supposed to be some underlying romantic tension, but it never came through.

Fortunately, every other character is equally annoying. Zaire, the Nigerian-born English girl who has magical, mystical powers. Gottfried, the exchange student who speaks entirely in Katzenjammer English. Corny, the cheerful busty girl with big breasts, who also has large boobs. And did I mention she has a huge chest? Gerard, the band member who was obsessed with Brittany.

The point of view randomly shifts through most of these people, allowing the reader to see that while the characters are obnoxious on the outside, they’re completely shallow on the inside as well.

Testosterone Level: Zilch

Wife: Is that teen suicide book any good?

Me: Not really.

Wife: Too sad?

Me: Too silly.

I think the author was trying to get laughs out of a couple of mismatched junior detectives solving a case in spite of themselves. This might have worked had the mystery been some kind of theft or heist. But when a girl kills herself, it kind of casts a pall over the whole situation. Jokes like how the police keep missing Brittany’s costume-clad body as it floats down river left a bad taste in my mouth.

Talky Talk: Not What I Was Hoping For

The entire plot seemed disjointed, there’s a revelation on page 100 that entirely changes what the book is about, the characters are unlikable, and the resolution is completely absurd. Other than that, I loved it.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Saved By the Bell/Lord of the Flies Syndrome

Cover of the Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies Syndrome: Where adults in a YA book are strangely absent.

Though this school is a boarding academy for some students (Virginia, Gottfried, and Zaire all live on campus), there is virtually no adult supervision, allowing the characters to roam free. While that might make for a more exciting book, it felt off.

Benny’s father recently suffered severe brain damage in an accident at work and is now semi-catatonic. This relationship had a lot of potential to be interesting, but is so poorly-developed that it could be written out of the novel without affecting the story arc.

Saved By the Bell Syndrome: Where every adult character is an idiot.

When adults do make the scene, they are all morons or jerks. The police ransack Virginia’s dorm, then laugh when she complains about the destruction. Every Korean guy is a pervert. And during a lecture on sexual consent, a coach advises Benny’s class that ‘yes’ sometimes means ‘no’, so they’d best reach up under their partner’s skirt and make sure she’s nice and lubricated before proceeding.

Seriously. While I think the author was going for a ‘Can you believe this jerk?’ scene, I didn’t care for it. I mean, really. Imagine a man telling someone to grab a woman by her genitals, and then blowing it off as ‘locker room talk.’ Such a person would never be allowed in a position of authority.


Bromance Status: Won’t Be Around for the Sequel

In the course of the investigation, Benny comes across evidence that hints about Virginia’s dark and mysterious past. We don’t find out more of course, that’s for book two. Too bad I’ll never ever find out.

FTC full disclosure: I received neither money or football tickets for writing this review.

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.