From School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-Dylan is literally thrown into a murder mystery when a group of thugs tosses him into a Dumpster and he lands next to Hector Maldonado, whom he recognizes from school, but just barely, as Hector Maldonado is very much dead. He has barely brushed off the garbage when wealthy teen Ashton Browning's disappearance hits the news, and when her father offers a $100,000 reward for information leading to her return, Dylan decides to find his mojo by putting on his detective cap to see what he can dig up. Along with his punky friend Audrey and girl-crazy sidekick Randy, Dylan attempts to infiltrate Gangland, an after-hours club of sorts run by the well-to-do teens from Hollister, the private school Ashton and her brother attend. While Audrey is quick to see through the overtly fake gestures of friendship that the Hollister kids offer up, Dylan just doesn't get it, and it takes an inordinate amount of obvious hints for him to figure out that the rich kid crew might be more invested in emulating the famous gangsters, whose pics hang on Gangland's walls, than he'd realized. Tharp's cast of characters consists mainly of savvy teens, except Dylan, whose obliviousness veers toward irritating, and at times can make the plot lag. The comic-book worthy conclusion, however, wherein the villain gets her due and the good guys walk off with a year's worth of free burgers, makes for an exciting end to an at times slow-moving plot.-Joanna Sondheim, Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, New York Cityα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Chubby 16-year-old Dylan isn’t exactly the school newspaper’s star investigative reporter—until fate plops two big mysteries right into his lap. Mystery number one: while evading bullies, Dylan leaps into a Dumpster, only to find a dead schoolmate, Hector. Mystery number two: a pretty 17-year-old rich girl named Ashton has disappeared, and it’s Dylan who stumbles across her discarded shoe. Solving this latter crime ought to give him everything: “I wanted the reward, the fame, the mojo.” Like any smart crime writer, Tharp (The Spectacular Now, 2008) stirs up a whole swarm of suspects. Could it be Trix, the sexy lesbian who has taken an interest in Dylan’s female best buddy? What about Beto, Hector’s too-helpful cousin? Or how about the wealthy Nash, Ashton’s ex-boyfriend who runs Gangland, a teen party space that hosts a series of increasingly unsavory competitions within its private walls? There isn’t a lot to differentiate Dylan from other teen gumshoes, but Tharp flexes his plotline like an old pro, right down to the juicy criminal-explains-all resolution. A savory morsel for mystery gnashers. Grades 8-11. --Daniel Kraus