3.5 star, YA

Review: You’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus

Ivy, Mateo, and Cal used to be close. Now all they have in common is Carlton High and the beginning of a very bad day.

Type A Ivy lost a student council election to the class clown, and now she has to face the school, humiliated. Heartthrob Mateo is burned out–he’s been working two jobs since his family’s business failed. And outsider Cal just got stood up…. again.

So when Cal pulls into campus late for class and runs into Ivy and Mateo, it seems like the perfect opportunity to turn a bad day around. They’ll ditch and go into the city. Just the three of them, like old times. Except they’ve barely left the parking lot before they run out of things to say…

Until they spot another Carlton High student skipping school–and follow him to the scene of his own murder. In one chance move, their day turns from dull to deadly. And it’s about to get worse.

It turns out Ivy, Mateo, and Cal still have some things in common. They all have a connection to the dead kid. And they’re all hiding something.

Now they’re all wondering–could it be that their chance reconnection wasn’t by chance after all?

From the author of One of Us Is Lying comes a brand-new pulse-pounding thriller. It’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with murder when three old friends relive an epic ditch day, and it goes horribly–and fatally–wrong.

I have been a fan of Karen McManus since her debut novel came out. She’s the reigning queen of YA mysteries for a reason, but in that way, I expect a lot from her writing. While You’ll Be the Death of Me is not bad by any means, it also wasn’t the best that I’ve come to expect.

Our 3 protagonists were friends in middle school that had once played hooky together and cemented their friendship, but due to some circumstances, they split up prior to high school. But on this day, all 3 come together by coincidence and decide to play hooky once again – maybe to recreate that amazing day they had.

While the story takes over the course of a literal day, the suspenseful aspect didn’t really hit me. The mystery takes a little while to get to because it takes place after the 3 friends are already together and skipped school. In all honesty, this piece felt more focused on the characters than only the mystery, which is still standard McManus writing but usually I find there’s more of a balance.

Okay, so this character-focused story may feature other secondary characters but it truly follows just the protagonists as we go around Boston with them. Of the 3 main characters, I empathized with Ivy the most, and not simply because she’s the only girl of the trio. I understood the immense pressure she put on herself to be the best, especially when she had an extraordinary genius for a younger brother. But I will say I enjoyed Cal’s POV a lot since he was someone that felt different from other characters I usually read from. He struggled with fitting in but not in the sense that he was bullied or anything. He just slipped between groups so easily that his presence was invisible at times. Mateo was probably the character I associated least with, but only because his perspective felt more reactionary to things Cal or Ivy said or did.

I liked that none of them were perfect. Each of them had their own secrets that slowly came to light over the day, and oddly enough had something to do with the murder victim in some way. This is some good storytelling for a mystery while highlighting the humanity of each teen. They’re not just props for a horrible crime but real people with their own problems that had unintended consequences.

As always, there’s a little bit of romance present too, but Mateo and Ivy’s rekindled feelings felt lacking in some way. The focus wasn’t on them, but it also didn’t add as much to the overall mystery or story in the same vein as other romances worked in Karen’s previous works.

That said, I wasn’t really sure where this story was going for the crime. It wasn’t suspenseful but it also wasn’t super predictable. I normally guessed the culprit (or at least some of the twists) in Karen’s other books, but I honestly wasn’t sure what to think here. That should be a great thing, but it lacked a bit of that wow factor I sometimes look for. The ending made sense when wrapped up all together like that, but I’m still left feeling like it overall missed something that would make it outstanding.

And that little final twist at the end? McManus-style final twists I normally find unsettling, but this one just made me upset. Like there’s this huge piece that was unresolved and we won’t ever get to see what comes of it. Maybe that works for some, but not for me apparently.

All of this to say in short, You’ll Be the Death of Me is a good mystery even with my nitpicky comments. If it came from any other author, I’d probably would’ve loved it. I still gobbled this story up in a day, but it was missing the extra Karen McManus magic I’ve come to love.

Overall Recommendation:

Karen McManus’ latest mystery You’ll Be the Death of Me is a Ferris Bueller-based story featuring a trio of previous friends that literally have the worst day ever when they land themselves with a horrible crime. Lacking in a suspense even with the shortened time period, this story felt more focused on the 3 protagonists than the mystery at hand, an imbalance I don’t normally feel from McManus’ books. However, I did enjoy the POVs of the trio and each of their unique voices as they rushed to solve the mystery (and hopefully not implicate themselves further). There’s nothing largely wrong with this story, but perhaps my expectations for the queen of YA mystery were somewhat let down by this one. If you enjoy mysteries in general and come into it with more of an open mind, it’s an interesting premise with twists I didn’t see coming.


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