Spoilers with feminist rant.
I can’t even.
I got this book because it had been on my “to read” list for a while. I wanted to read some kind of murder mystery thing, and this was the first one I hit on. I should have kept looking.
This book is incredibly sexist. I wouldn’t expect so much sexism towards women from a book written by a woman. This was horrible. Here’s the premise, every year at Kenzie’s school, boys make a list of the ten hottest girls literally called “The Hottie List”. Cringing yet? This list is normally picked by the guys in the school, but this time there’s special help from an assassin, though nobody knows he is an assassin until the very end. This assassin is, wait for it, an adult man. That’s right, an adult male is helping make the list of hot, teen, underage girls. So I guess this book is sort of murder and pedophilia? The assassin uses teenage girls, specifically those on the list over the years, as practice victims for his “accident” murders because that is his MO, not a murder, an accident. In the past it was more random and infrequent, this year would be different with every girl targeted. Because that’s how professional assassins work, they get sloppy and kill masses of innocent teens for practice. Why use teenage girls? Because, according to him, it’s easy to get teenage girls to do what you want them to. This is a book for teenage girls, and it’s literally making fun of teenage girls.
Anyway, once a girl gets on the list, she becomes wildly popular and she can go to all the parties. Shallow jocks who only care about dating pretty girls will probably ask them out. Some people will stop calling them by their names, instead only referring to them as the number they are on the list. Objectifying much? Does anyone really want to be a number? Would that make anyone feel special and cool? Let’s face it, this is just objectification, and it is not okay.
For the entire book Kenzie talks about how there’s no reason she should be on the list because she’s not beautiful. Instead, she’s smart and speaks Latin. *OBVIOUSLY* there’s no way a woman could be smart AND beautiful! OMG they have to pick one. (*Sarcasm*) Did the author base all of her character development on really bad Lifetime movie stereotypes?
Speaking of being smart, Kenzie reminds the reader that she’s basically a genius on every page of the book. She seems to be basing this off of the fact that she can translate a few Latin phrases, so obviously that makes her SO MUCH SMARTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE IN THE BOOK. Her best friend Molly, who isn’t a genius, was the one who figured out some of the stuff in the obstacle course in the end but it wasn’t in Latin, so . . . Yet, we are to believe that this smart girl, who doesn’t want to be on “the list”, thinks about and talks about the list all the time. Smart enough to do Latin apparently doesn’t mean smart enough to not wish to be objectified. That’s all women really want, isn’t it?
Weirdly enough, I think the author might be trying to make Kenzie a strong female character? But not a strong female character because she’s well written, more of the Tumblr strong female character. ‘Cause you know, she speaks Latin and stabbed a guy in the knee, and, you knew it was coming, she’s not like other girls. She lets Josh (I think that’s his name) call her Fifth throughout the entire book and doesn’t make him stop. She doesn’t love being called Fifth, but she never makes him stop. If some guy tried to call me a number based on how pretty he thought I was, I would refuse to speak to him. It’s like the author wanted to make a strong female character, but she didn’t really know how, so, instead of actually making a well developed, interesting character, she just made her stab people and fight assassins. I’m sorry, but fighting people and speaking Latin isn’t enough to make someone a strong female character. Not even in the Tumblr way. If she wanted to make a strong female character, she shouldn’t have made a character who was mostly okay with being called a number. A strong female character would not have thought so much about the list. A strong female character would have been developed for her internal dialogue, not for stabbing people and not being like other girls.
And now for the picky details that just rubbed salt in the wound of my lost time reading this book.
First, in this book there are text messages that will show up on someone’s phone from an unknown number and then, ten minutes later, disappear. This isn’t possible. I actually talked to a professional computer programmer who tells me that there is no way to put some kind of code or something in a text so it would self destruct. Even if her phone was running out of space, it wouldn’t delete brand new messages. It would probably just give her a warning that it was running out of space.
Second, there was an unrealistic lack of swearing in this book. At one point Kenzie actually comes face to face with the man who helped plan her brother’s murder, and she just says something like, “God damned you when you killed my brother.” This isn’t really even a swear. It’s just her stating what she thinks God has done. If I came face to face with someone who had murdered someone I cared about I would have a lot more to say, and there would be a lot more profanity. And this is coming from someone who doesn’t normally swear.
Third, when the girls are all having one of their special Sisters of the List meetings (I wish I was kidding. They’re literally called that.), they said that maybe people were dying because it was the thirtieth year of the list. They speculated that maybe the murders mean something inane and vapid. They obviously don’t jump to the conclusion that there are actually a bunch of assassins who are practicing murder on teenage girls, but honestly who would. That’s ridiculous. Anyway, what’s the big deal with the thirtieth year? If it was the thirteenth year that would make more sense because ooh, thirteen is an unlucky number, but the thirtieth year doesn’t seem that special. Unless this is some sort of stupid comment about women and aging? And why not? Let’s just offend and objectify all the women. But I digress.
I guess Kenzie’s love interest was okay, even though he was very cliched. Levi was the “bad guy” who turned out to have a heart of gold. At first, this irritated me because oh my god this again, but by the end he was the only guy in the book that didn’t make me want to scream. Really, if Levi was in another book, nearly any other book, I probably would have hated him, too. But, quite frankly, the rest of the book left me thinking that even the cliched bad boy turned good was alright in light of how horrible the rest of the book was.
The ending was unexpected? But not in a normal kind of unexpected way where you could figure it out sooner if you really tried, which is the hallmark of all modern mystery writing. If you don’t give clues in the text, you aren’t playing fair with your reader. This is how mystery novels work. Ask Doyle or Poe or Christie. The ending in this terrible excuse for a mystery involved Josh’s father’s admission, out of nowhere, of being a complete creeper and murderer. Apparently, Josh’s father faked his own death years ago (and killed his wife while he was at because no witnesses, right?) He then goes on to reveal that he’s been killing the girls on the list one by one and making it look like accidents because he’s part of a secret group of assassins. I don’t think there are any hints that this is what’s going to happen earlier in the book AT ALL. Part of the fun of reading a murder mystery is trying to figure it out before the main character does, and in this book it’s just not possible. I can’t say it gets weirder, because it really can’t. However, in the last chapter of the book people from the FBI come to talk to Kenzie, Molly, Levi, and Josh because they think that there are a lot more assassins in the world, and the FBI wants their help to find them. Obviously Kenzie would be so much help because she can speak Latin, and it’s not like anyone else can do that. (Well, maybe just the assassins and that’s why they need Kenzie so very much!) How brilliant of the FBI to figure out that there are more assassins in the world. Gee, I never would have guessed. It’s like the author made up assassins all by herself and now she gets to populate the world with them! But, never fear, a bunch of teens will save the day because they are smart and some of them are even pretty!
One star out of five, but that’s being really generous.