I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Trouble Is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly
Published by Kathy Dawson Books on August 4th 2015
Pages: 336 •Goodreads
Preparing to survive a typical day of being Digbys friend wasn't that different from preparing to survive the apocalypse.Her first day not in school (because she cut) in her new hometown that will soon be her old hometown (because she's getting out of Dodge as fast as she can) Zoe meets Digby. Or rather, Digby decides he's going to meet Zoe and get her to help him find missing teenager. Zoe isn't sure how, but Digby—the odd and brilliant and somehow…attractive?—Digby always gets what he wants, including her help on several illegal ventures. Before she knows it, Zoe has vandalized an office complex with fake snow, pretended to buy drugs alongside a handsome football player dressed like the Hulk, had a throw-down with a possible cult, and, oh yeah, saved her new hometown (which might be worth making her permanent hometown after all.)A mystery where catching the crook isn't the only hook, a romance where the leading man is decidedly unromantic, a story about friendship where they aren't even sure they like each other—Trouble is a Friend of Mine is a YA debut you won’t soon forget.
When I was pitched Trouble is a Friend of Mine at ALA, I was pleasantly surprised to learn in was a YA mystery. I am a HUGE Nancy Drew fan, and when I began the book and it took place in a town called River Heights (that’s Nancy Drew’s iconic neighborhood from the famous series) my expectations were set high. Instead, I found this book to be ridiculous and zany, full of plot holes and irritating characterization.
Let’s start with the obvious thing that needs to be addressed: Digby. Digby is supposed to be the enigma of the town, the detective with no social skills but who everyone tolerates because “that’s just how Digby is.” From the moment Zoe, the protagonist, moves to town Digby infiltrates her life, and not in a cute or charming way. He stalks her, pushes her to help him in his schemes, and takes advantage of her disposition toward sympathizing with others to manipulate her into supporting him even when she’s annoyed or against it. Sure, not every character should be “likeable,” but Digby’s lack of social skills allow gives him permission to cross boundaries that normally wouldn’t be OK. On multiple occasions Zoe refuses to participate or is clearly uncomfortable but she always caves, and Digby clearly knows she will and even informs her of the fact. He uses her as a personal ATM, holding out his hand and Zoe hands him money without question, resigned to doing so because that’s “just how Digby is.” He’s constantly getting Zoe -and others- into dangerous/illegal situations but despite their unease it’s always excused because Digby comes up with a way to exonerate them from any *serious* consequences. I don’t mean to rant, but the more I think about it, the more I’m appalled by Digby’s behavior. Rather than coming off as quirky or funny, I found it downright disrespectful. View Spoiler »What angered me perhaps the most is when Digby promises Felix Zoe will go to the dance with him if he helps Digby out with a scheme. Zoe never agreed to such a deal and even points out to him that she’s not his to just give away on dates. Yet he still manages to manipulate her into going on said date with Felix anyways. You can’t just barter your female friends away whenever you feel like it! « Hide Spoiler
The mystery aspect of the book kept me reading, but it was full of plot holes and got pretty ridiculous at the end. There are two parallel mysteries running through the novel: the disappearance of a high school girl names Marina and (potential minor spoiler) View Spoiler »the disappearance (years ago) of Digby’s little sister « Hide Spoiler. It’s implied that the two mysteries are somehow linked, yet by the end of the book the plot focused on a completely different mystery being solved, with the disappearances only really accounting for a very small part of what happened. (And to tell you the truth I’m not even sure WHAT exactly happened. There’s hardly any clarity given as to why Marina left/was taken and what the resolution of her situation is). The fact that another major mystery introduced in the series that Digby spends the entire book obsessing over gets NO closure at all was the final straw that bumped this from a 3-star to a 2-star read for me. (I wasn’t even aware that this book wasn’t a stand-alone, and I’m still not really sure if there’s a sequel, but to introduce such a large mystery and then literally address NO closure for it was beyond irksome).
There were aspects of the book that I did enjoy. There were some truly laugh out loud funny moments, and along the way to solving the bigger crime of the book, Zoe and Digby manage to unearth and bring to light some other problematic happenings in the town. Yet the high school setting felt over-stereotyped and over-caracaturized, and some of the dialogue had the feeling of trying to be too witty and quirky that it just felt awkward and forced, like the characters were trying too hard to sound sarcastic and/or funny. Trouble is a Friend of Mine is a book that had a fun premise but veered to far over the edge of trying to be quirky.
Overall: While it had some fun and witty moments, Trouble is a Friend of Mine was riddled with plot holes and convoluted storytelling. Digby proved (to me) to be arrogant and insufferable, and I didn’t enjoy him railroading the other characters. At times it was interesting to see how pieces of the mystery unraveled and linked up, but overall the execution of the plot was poor. Trouble is A Friend of Mine may still appeal to readers who enjoy quirky contemporaries and more lighthearted mysteries, but may fall flat for those who are more well versed in the mystery genre.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Goodreads Challenge