Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dooley Takes the Fall by Norah McClintock

This is why I love YA bloggers. If not for good ol' bookshelves of doom, I never would've heard of this fantastic book. Here's the description:

A boy maybe twelve years old, on a bike, stopped next to Dooley, looked at the kid sprawled on the pavement and said, "Is he dead?"

"Yeah, I think so," Dooley said. In fact, he was sure of it because there was no air going into or coming out of the lungs of the kid on the pavement. Also, the kid's open eyes were staring at nothing, and his head was twisted, as if he had turned to look at something just before he made contact with the hard surface of the path.

Right away, Dooley knows he's in trouble. For one thing he's got a record. For another, the dead kid isn't exactly a stranger - and he's no friend.

So slowly the net begins to close around 17-year-old Dooley, a troubled lone wolf who has a couple of strikes against him already. Not many are on Dooley's side; in fact at times he even wonders whether his uncle - a retired cop - thinks he's guilty again. There's a big question of trust in their uneasy relationship, and his uncle is the only one standing between Dooley and big time disaster.

The dead kid's sister Beth is someone Dooley would like to have think better of him as well - but she also suspects he's involved in the crime. And all around him are other teenagers at school and in the world he's drawn into who would like to pin him with responsibility for a growing number of murders that swirl through the city.

Norah McClintock, five-time winner of the Arthur Ellis juvenile crime award, has now moved into a different realm with a richly detailed novel aimed at older teens. Gritty, hard-edged, Dooley Takes the Fall is the first in a trilogy of mysteries about a troubled teenager struggling to free himself from the tentacles of his past and the implications of the present conspiracies that surround him.

It's a small press title which means that it's something that wouldn't have just ended up on the shelves of the bookstore where I work. Luckily though, I love YA reviews, so I ordered it right away. I was not disappointed. I knew that I would like this book as soon as I read Dooley's reasons why school sucks:

"Dooley was back to remembering why he has never liked school. Reason number one was standing right up there at the front of the class--Dooley's math teacher, droning out the rudiments of calculus, sounding like he one hundred percent didn't give a crap if anyone was listening or understood what he was saying. Reason number two: having to cram your head full of shit you knew for a fact you were never going to use , like, say, calculus. But the blue-ribbon winner, reason number three, was all the assholes. In Dooley's experience, your average high school had a higher asshole-to-solid-citizen ratio than your average youth detention center. The only difference was, most of the high school assholes weren't violent."

How true, I love this passage and I love this book. It's hard to find good YA mysteries. There are a lot of books that includes some suspense, but not a great many books that I would classify as mystery. Dooley has a real noir feel to it. The characters are flawed and believable. I would highly recommend it, and I'm thrilled that it is the first book in a trilogy. When I finish a good book, I always like to know that there is more on the way.

Speaking of good books, another great YA mystery series is Alane Ferguson's Forensic Mysteries. If you like mystery books, or shows like CSI, then this is the series for you. I've read the first two, but haven't gotten to the third yet. It's on my pile with about a million other books, though.

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