Longing to be part of the in-crowd at her exclusive London school, orphaned, sixteen-year-old Scarlett, a trained gymnast, eagerly accepts an invitation to a party whose disastrous outcome changes her life forever.
Lauren Henderson is the author of several acclaimed "tart noir" mystery novels for adults, as well as the witty romance handbook Jane Austen's Guide to Dating. She was born and raised in London, England, where she lives with her husband.
Fans of Libba Bray's books will enjoy this contemporary British murder mystery featuring 16-year-old Scarlett Wakefield, an orphaned heiress who believes that her first kiss kills her longtime crush, Dan McAndrew. Although she is not charged with Dan's death, Scarlett feels responsible, and her subsequent expulsion from her exclusive London private school doesn't help. Scarlett retreats to her grandmother's private girls' school, where she tries to put herself back together and find out who, and what, really killed Dan. Henderson knows how to construct a murder mystery. Her pacing and exposition of clues are skillful, and intriguing secondary characters abound. The many Briticisms make sense in context and will not deter American readers. Scarlett is a talented gymnast, and her training episodes capture the sport's excitement and the athletes' constant striving for perfection. An abrupt ending will leave readers gasping with anticipation for a sequel that will hopefully pick up the fast-paced story's loose threads. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.
Stylish, sassy prose spins a whodunit that doesn't quite satisfy. Sixteen-year-old Scarlett Wakefield suffers from the usual teenage-girl angst: to be part of the popular crowd and to kiss Dan, one of the most popular boys in her class. When these wishes are granted with an invitation to a posh party, Scarlett finds herself among the glitzy girls and their upscale lifestyle and in the arms of her adored Dan. When she and Dan kiss, he suddenly, horribly dies of anaphylactic shock. Nicknamed "the Kiss of Death Girl," Scarlett is sent to live with her grandmother at Wakefield Hall. Finding an anonymous note in her desk, she discovers that she may not be to blame for Dan's death and finds herself embroiled in mystery. Reminiscent of a young Stephanie Plum, Scarlett's sharp sense of self-deprecating humor shines. While a breezy blend of mystery and mean-girl fun, Henderson's offering doesn't provide its reader enough of a resolution to be fulfilling; they may be disappointed to work their way through to find that too many threads have been left dangling in order to carry over to a sequel. (Fiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
On January 1, I made two wishes. I know it's supposed to be resolutions, but the two things I really wanted you can't exactly make happen, like you can with resolutions.
I wished to kiss Dan McAndrew. And I wished to have breasts, instead of two flat pancakes on my chest. God, how I hated it when girls would come by and flick their fingers on my back between my shoulder blades and laugh mockingly because there wasn't a bra fastening there, because I didn't need to wear one.
(Actually, that's three wishes, isn't it? One kiss plus two breasts equals three, the magic number.)
Cut to June, nearly six months later, when I'd pretty much given up hope that I would get either of those things, ever. I had resigned myself to being flat-chested and unkissed for the rest of my life.
And then everything happened at once, and my life was changed. Though not, I might add, for the better.
Be careful what you wish for.
"Scarlett! Round-off, two back handsprings, back tuck! And keep it tight this time!"
I stand at the edge of the floor, bracing myself. I can do this. Ricky's halfway down, at just the right place to give me a spot on the second back handspring if I need it. But if I need it, he'll shout at me afterward.
Long and strong, Scarlett, I say to myself. Long and strong.
I'm running. Three steps to the round-off. Land and flip, jump up, jump back . . . my hands push the spring-loaded floor and bounce me up, feet land and I'm already jumping off my toes to the second back handspring, reaching away, reaching long . . . yes! No touch in the small of my back, which would be Ricky thinking I needed that tiny bit of help to arch on the second one . . . land on my feet again and use the momentum to rebound up, high in the air. Spot the high bar across the room, which gives me that fixed point I need to focus on for the split second before I tuck and flip myself backward like a ball through the air, thrown by an invisible hand. Land straight, knees not too bent, slightly dizzy, but knowing I made it.
Across the room, Alison and Luce, my two best friends, are clapping and whooping. I beam with happiness and look at Ricky for approval.
"Better. But go a lot longer on the second back handspring" is all he says.
That is approval, believe it or not. You don't expect bouquets of flowers from Ricky, no matter how good you are.
And then he looks at my chest.
"Strap those things down, Scarlett, can't you?" he adds. "They're bouncing everywhere-they're getting in your way when you tuck up! Jesus, where did they even come from?"
This is embarrassing. It's embarrassing to have Ricky talking about my boobs in front of everyone.
"Get a sports bra, for God's sake!" Ricky says, waving me away.
Like every single other girl here, I used to have a massive crush on Ricky, who's built like a rugby player-wide shoulders, muscles bulging through his tracksuit-with thick blond hair, bright blue eyes, and a really nice smile, which you get to see, on average, once a year. Ricky's incredible grumpiness is the reason my crush faded. And the insults he throws at you. And the fact that he's gay. (No reason you can't have a crush on a gay guy, of course-it just feels increasingly pointless as time goes on.)
I move to the side, giving Alison a clear run across the floor. As she starts, I walk around the edge of the gymnasium, back to where Luce is standing.
"I'm wearing a sports bra already," I say. "I don't know what to do."
"Get one of those tops with a built-in thingy," Luce suggests. "You know, the shelf support."
I pull my top a little away from my body so she can see.
"I am," I say hopelessly.
Luce has the ideal build for gymnastics-like a wire. She's small (you shouldn't be over five feet, five inches, that would be too much of you to send spinning through the air) and has no excess fat on her entire frame. Her breasts are pretty little points under her pale blue leotard: Luce can still wear a leotard over footless tights because she's so lean. Most of us gave that up years ago for something a bit less cruel to our curves. She wears her hair in two twisted bunches on either side of her head-a style that's easier for gymnastics, because it keeps her hair out of her way, but it makes her look even more like a little girl. Creepy old men are always giving her weird stares. But Luce is the most stubborn person I've ever met; if I suggested she change her hairstyle, she'd put plastic bobbles on her bunches and walk down the street sucking on a lollipop, just to show me.
"Maybe you should go to a sports shop and ask," she suggests.
I grimace. "They weren't much help when I went to buy the bra," I say.
Luce looks helpless. "I'd love to have ones like you," she says. "But I know I never will. My mum's flat as a board. The only time she had any was when she was pregnant with me, and she said she cried for weeks when they went down again."
"Better for gymnastics," I say.
"Lucy! Scarlett! Stop gossiping! Lucy, you're up!" Ricky yells.
I watch Luce precipitate herself into a blur of motion. She flies through the air, her twisted bunches spinning as she goes; in her front handsprings, she's almost perpendicular to the floor for a brief, breathtaking moment. Arms by her ears, legs almost straight out behind her. That's why we call that moment "Supergirl."
I think about what Luce said about her mum. If I had a mum, I could ask her about the sports bra thing. Maybe she would take me to the shop and talk to the snotty assistants.