I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Alexa Donne has become one of my go-to YA authors and I will always request her latest on NetGalley. Unfortunately I am way behind on reviews and this book came out last year, but it is still a fantastic read and I highly recommend it.
We meet seventeen year old Cecelia as she arrives to live with her grandmother after the death of her mom. Seaview is a typical coastal California town and she settles into life in the creepy Victorian home where her grandmother writes her equally creepy murder mystery novels as a well-known author.
The normality is blasted to smithereens when the Homecoming queen is murdered...and she's not the first pretty dead queen the town has had.
Cecelia begins investigating when it becomes clear there is a copycat on the loose. She digs into the history of the town, looks into everyone she knows to find connections, motives, etc. But the closer she gets to the answer, the more her own life is in danger.
This was such an engrossing read that I plowed through it in one sitting. The clues, false starts, and red herrings were well-placed and felt authentic.
Something else the author does well is creating characters who also feel authentic. The characters feel like actual teenagers, and not just adults with adult feelings/ideas crammed into teenage-shaped bodies. It is hard to do this well, but Donne especially excels in this area.
Everyone has secrets, Cecelia finds out quickly. After finding her friend dead exactly the way the previous murder occurred, Cecelia begins uncovering a lot of those secrets, even ones the queen herself had. There are several characters who are given ample motive and this was done in a realistic way as well. Nothing seemed manufactured or forced, simply to confuse the reader. The clues are there, if you are paying attention.
I am happy to say that even with paying attention, I had it narrowed down to two suspects before the reveal, and I am not even mad that I couldn't do better than that, because it could have easily gone either way.
I was very impressed with this one and think it is probably my favorite of the author's so far - though I really loved The Ivies a lot.