The Amateurs Book Review

The Amateurs Book Review

What is this about?: A group of teens obsessed with cold crimes – and  having experience the consequences of these crimes themselves – band together to solve the mystery of Helena, when Aerin, her young sister goes on to a message board and asks for help.

What else is this about?: It explores how grief shapes people in different ways.

Stars: 3.5/5

Blurb: Everyone’s dying to know the truth . . .

When Aerin Kelly was eleven, she idolised her seventeen-year-old sister, Helena, and they did everything together. They made Claymation movies and posted them to YouTube. They made fun of Windmere-Carruthers, the private school they attended, they invented new flavours for their parents’ organic ice cream shop, and they dressed up their golden retriever, Buster. But when Helena went into senior year things started to change. Rather than being Aerin’s inseparable sister, she started to push her away. Then, on a snowy winter’s day, Helena vanished.

Four years later, Helena’s body is found. Wracked with grief and refusing to give up on her sister, Aerin spends months trying to figure out what exactly happened to Helena and who killed her. But the police have no leads. A young, familiar officer named Thomas wants to help and suggests she checks out a website called Case Not Closed. Hesitantly, she posts, and when teenagers Seneca and Maddox show up on her doorstep offering to help investigate she accepts in desperation. Both have suffered their own losses and also posted to the site with no luck, so they are hoping this case might be the one they crack. But as their investigation begins, it seems that maybe it’s no accident that they are all together, and that maybe the crimes have something – or someone – in common.

Sara Shepard is the author of the Pretty Little Liars series, so I have to confess I know nothing about this series or the show.

The Amateurs begins when Seneca and Maddox, who have met on the website Case Not Closed, decided to band together to answer Aerin’s call for help to find solve her sister’s murder. Seneca heads off to Maddox and Aerin’s home town, lying to her father, to solve the mystery. There, she meets Maddox and Brett, another member of Case Not Closed, before they meet Aerin and explain they’re here answering her call for help. She’s not happy – she expected adults to turn up.

Which you know fair enough, this is her sister’s murder she’s trying to figure out.

The plot speeds along after that with the foursome proving they have the skills to back up their interest in murder. They unravel Helena’s past, revealing truths about her Aerin didn’t even know, much to her surprise. The end though was not what I expected and I can’t decide if this is better as a standalone book or a series. I’m still not sure.

What I do know is that the foursome make this work, even if the ending feels a little rushed.

Seneca is, to be blunt, unpleasant. Granted she is within her rights when she learns firsthand that there’s a difference between a person online and in real life, but here’s the problem with her – as justified as the anger is, there’s an undercurrent of mean to her that I didn’t understand. The book gives her more background but that didn’t make her behaviour make sense – but I guess that’s why this is a series. There are four characters to develop here I guess, I should be grateful this isn’t being rushed right?

Aerin’s grief is raw, and she’s never recovered from Helena’s death. She seeks solace in physical intimacy with boys she doesn’t know, and she doesn’t know why she does it really.  On the surface, she’s a mean girl, but underneath is a girl mourning her sister and her broken family. Anger is just easier.

Maddox and Brett round out the foursome. They’re fast friends, and their relationship provides some much needed lightness from time to time. But they too – everyone in the group does – have their secrets and their pasts that have shaped them, and are still shaping them. Maddox sometimes seems like a nerd in a body he doesn’t know how he got – you know that scene in the Spiderman movies with Toby McGuire where he sees his muscled body for the first time? That’s Maddox in some ways. The real him is hiding underneath all that – the real him that Seneca finds herself liking.

They are the main romance in this novel and naturally they implode without ever getting started really in true YA fashion. On the plus side, it’s an interesting explosion with far-reaching consequences that develops characters and helps you make peace with the clichéd will-they-or-won’t-they of it all.

Aerin and Brett are the other couple-in-waiting, but she’s too broken to pursue that much. Brett has to deal, and of course there’s a cliffhanger about them to lead into the next book. Dammit!

The story speeds along ramping up the tension and the relationships, until I found myself flicking pages, reading faster and faster because I knew something good was coming …. Which was more half-good. The ending feels rushed, with relationships forced into fast conclusions, or misunderstandings occur quickly to cause anger and dramatic explosions that left me puzzled. It feels like the characters were rushed to get to a spot for the next book instead of letting them develop more organically.

Overall, I think is a series worth following and to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if it got picked up as a tv show at some point. I have issues with certain parts of it sure, but they didn’t detract from how good it was.

What do you think of The Amateurs? Does it remind you of Pretty Little Liars at all?

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