While I am a bit saddened to see this tour conclude, I am excited to be reviewing The Amateurs by Sara Shepard. As I know many of you have been anticipating this title. It seems like the perfect note to end on. I want to thank Morgan Rath and everyone at SparkPoint Studio/BookSparks, as well as the fabulous authors involved, for what has been one of my best blogging experiences to date!
The Amateurs (The Amateurs #1)
By Sara Shepard
Genre: YA Mystery
As soon as Seneca Frazier sees the post on the Case Not Closed website about Helena Kelly, she’s hooked. Helena’s high-profile disappearance five years earlier is the one that originally got Seneca addicted to true crime. It’s the reason she’s a member of the site in the first place.
So when Maddy Wright, her best friend from the CNC site, invites Seneca to spend spring break in Connecticut looking into the cold case, she immediately packs her bag. But the moment she steps off the train in trendy, glamorous Dexby, things begin to go wrong. Maddy is nothing like she expected, and Helena’s sister, Aerin Kelly, seems completely hostile and totally uninterested in helping with their murder investigation.
But when Brett, another super user from the site, joins Seneca and Maddy in Dexby, Aerin starts to come around. The police must have missed something, and someone in Dexby definitely has information they’ve been keeping quiet.
As Seneca, Brett, Maddy, and Aerin begin to unravel dark secrets and shocking betrayals about the people closest to them, they seem to be on the murderer’s trail at last. But somewhere nearby the killer is watching . . . ready to do whatever it takes to make sure the truth stays buried.
The Amateurs was my first experience with a book by Sara Shepard, I know I know, I can hear half of you gasping in shock. But it is true. I have never read her work, but that is not to say I am unfamiliar with Pretty Little Liars. As some of you know, I happen to be the proud owner of a 16 yr old daughter. So I have caught snippets of the television series and discovered the books lying casually around the house.
So let me explain in a bit more detail why I was very excited to receive this book. My daughter is hardly a reader. The normal titles strewn about her floor are “required” reading for her Honors English course. Discovering leisure reads in her possession is a huge and thrilling deal for me. So when I began to see a pattern with Sara Shepard’s work, I knew there was something special here. And to seal the deal, landing an advanced copy of her newest book suddenly made me one of the “cool” kids in my daughter’s circle! So immediately, The Amateurs was prone for success without having even been read. Great start! So what happens next?
I have learned, a lot in part to Gilt Hollow by Lorie Langdon (who I discovered as part of this tour), that YA Mystery is not bad. In fact, when you learn to adjust your mindset and discover a great author, it can be pretty rewarding. And that is exactly how I would describe The Amateurs. Rewarding. I quickly discovered that the author’s writing is clean and eloquent, avoiding flowery or useless speech. It feels precise, but just descriptive enough to allow you to fully picture the events unfolding with incredible ease.
The characters are evolved with enough depth to easily convey empathy and anger where needed. They are convincing. It is easy to appreciate their struggles and to like or dislike them. I understood within a matter of several chapters how this author has created so many characters my daughter has connected with. You find yourself invested. Simple, but important additions of appropriate details such as accessories and style complete the viable feel of true young adults. They work. And while I was not smitten with any particular character, I found myself enjoying Seneca and her friends acquired from Case Not Closed, an online crime solving forum.
The plot felt original and familiar at the same time. The story of a group of young adults struggling to solve the mystery of murder is definitely not a new concept. However, Shepard easily provided a fresh addition to the story with the introduction of the online forum and a group a characters coming together for the first time in hopes of solving a heinous crime. It created a unique experience for me and made perfect sense in a time where the internet connects so many of us.
I did not find The Amateurs to have a true element of suspense, as the story unfolds at a very steady pace for the most part. However, the mystery vibe is definitely present, as I soon realized I was unable to pinpoint any definitive suspects. Of course there were multiple people in question regarding the death of Helena, but everyone seems to have an alibi or leave just enough room for question. It is hard to commit to one or two particular “prime” suspects. Sign of a good mystery, right?!
I found myself having to put the book down for days at a time because I do not like to allow too much time between completion and reviews to past. I was tearing through this too fast for my preferred review date. Shame on me for being excited and starting too soon. I have stumbled across several mixed reviews and a few low scores, but here are my final and honest thoughts: The end result was a light, and enjoyable read that I would recommend to any fan of YA Mystery, especially on the younger end of the spectrum. The conclusion was fantastically surprising, leaving a beautiful segue into future editions. This is a title that is worth investing the time in. I now have a better understanding of why this author has reached my daughter on a level so many others could not.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
About Sara Shepard
For as long as she can remember, Sara Shepard has been writing. However, when she was young she also wanted to be a soap opera star, a designer for LEGO, a filmmaker, a claymation artist, a geneticist, and a fashion magazine editor when she grew up. She and her sister have been creating joint artistic and written projects for years, except they’re pretty sure they’re the only ones who find them funny. Sara’s bestselling young adult series, Pretty Little Liars, is loosely based on her experiences growing up on Philadelphia’s Main Line…although luckily she never had any serious stalkers. The series has also inspired the Freeform television series of the same name.