You’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen McManus

My favorite author Karen McManus continues her winning streak with this Ferris Bueller-inspired mystery starring three estranged friends racing against time to discover why one of their classmates has been murdered. Quick-paced with relatable characters, You’ll Be The Death of Me is perfect for fans of mysteries, YA books, and of course McManus’ earlier work.

Ivy, Cal, and Mateo haven’t been close since eighth grade when they suddenly grew apart, but the day after the senior student council election they each find themselves desperate to recapture the spirit of their former friendship and adventures. Ivy just lost the election – badly – to the class slacker “Boney” Mahoney; Cal is trapped in a conflicted relationship that’s making him long for simpler days, and Mateo is exhausted from working multiple jobs to help his family. In an impulsive moment, they skip school together, awkward though it is with all that’s been left unsaid. But then they see the class slacker (and new president) also out of school, and decide to follow him. It may be the worst – and last – decision they ever make. Before they know what’s happened, Boney’s been murdered, Ivy’s a suspect, and if they don’t figure out what happened they’ll lose more than just their friendship.

If we’re being honest there’s too much tension right off the bat to really strike a Ferris Bueller vibe, but the echoes are there in the ways Mateo, Ivy, and Cal relate to each other – Ivy and Mateo’s unspoken attraction contrasts with Cal’s loneliness as an outsider, and they consistently drag each other into variously flawed decisions. Along the way some pretty serious conversations are had, and no one person or relationship will leave the day unchanged. There’s also a sibling/rival figure, a rogue teacher, and a race to beat the parents home (and keep them from finding out what’s really going on). In a way it’s Ferris Bueller if the story had been told from his sister Jeannie’s perspective, complete with a darker tinge and lots of unresolved feelings and secrets to resolve.

I loved how distinct the characters were, and how realistic their different problems were; and as usual McManus expertly shifts between their voices to round out all perspectives. The action is both propulsive and realistic for the characters’ age, and the bit of romance isn’t gratuitous but is entwined with the plot and character development. I also really appreciated the representation of positive, supportive, and involved parenting in several different styles.

If you like Karen McManus as much as I do, or just YA mysteries in general, this is definitely a book you won’t want to miss.

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