When Wendy Geller’s body is found in Central Park after the night of a rager, newspaper headlines scream,”Death in the Park: Party Girl Found Strangled.” But shy Rain, once Wendy’s best friend, knows there was more to Wendy than just “party girl.” As she struggles to separate the friend she knew from the tangle of gossip and headlines, Rain becomes determined to discover the truth about the murder. Written in a voice at once immediate, riveting, and utterly convincing, Mariah Frederick’s mystery brilliantly exposes the cracks in this exclusive New York City world and the teenagers that move within it.
A contemporary YA novel? Who, me? Who would have thought, right? No wizards or demons or ghosts or vampires or anything paranormal at all in this one! I think in order for me to actually enjoy contemporary YA, it has to be a mystery. I’m the only person in the world who was annoyed by Anna and the French Kiss, after all. Rain, our protag, has a cleft palate and therefore a bit of a language disability. She doesn’t have many friends at her exclusive high school for rich kids, and when Wendy’s body is found, Rain’s world is rocked off its axis. Wendy was vindictive in a way that I quite enjoy, in that I like seeing snobby high school girls get their comeuppance (though she goes a little overboard with her boyfriend-stealing ways). I was really, really worried about slut-shaming in this one because of Wendy’s…activities, and Rain does imply Wendy is slutty at one point. I hate body policing and shaming women for sex, even vindictive high school juniors. It’s a little sad to watch the interactions of Rain and Wendy, both with each other and their classmates. The realism in this one makes me cringe a little, especially at times when Wendy’s peers complain that her death means no more parties. We meet Taylor, who is an overeager student reporter stereotype who annoyed me more than anything. We’re also introduced to Nico, resident bad boy, newest object of Wendy’s obsession (an obsession she’s embarrassingly public about, posting statuses about him on Facebook and such). Rain wonders if Nico and Wendy were in the park that night, and if Nico killed her.
I’ll admit, I started to worry that Rain and Nico were going to get involved in some weird romance. Nico has called her a retard in the past, and I was going to be furious if this turned into some bad boy redemption story, because I did not sign up for that. She has a cleft palate and he shoved his finger in her mouth to touch the hole left over from her surgery. Nico Phelps makes me sick. Not only is Nico contemptible, all of Wendy’s popular “friends” are either faking their grief or being openly indifferent to her murder. Many of the girls seem to be more worried about Nico’s reputation than what happened the night Wendy was killed. Rain is really pissed off by the amount of victim blaming going on, horrified that because Wendy slept around, people are acting like she deserved what she got. Rain is on a mission for truth. And at about 44% on my Kindle, I had a suspect of my own, and it wasn’t Nico Phelps. Did I mention that in the midst of all this, Rain is crushing on her teacher? There are a lot of emotions going around for her.
So I sort of figured out who the killer was about halfway through, but I liked the mystery. Things work out a little too easily for our heroine, but the whole story was intriguing, and I liked how they gave Wendy a voice through Rain. Rain, in her own mind, confronts slut shaming, prejudice, and the sometimes callous media. There are a lot of realistic things in this book, like the way they paint Wendy as a party girl, or how Nico is so believable as a murderer due to his violent past. When I say realistic, I mean the media portrayal in this book. The media is terrible and it hurts people in lots of different ways. This was an intense book to read, and exactly the kind of contemporary novel I like. It’s definitely worth a shot.