Wednesday, February 20, 2013

review: YOU KILLED WESLEY PAYNE by Sean Beaudoin

Hachette: Little, Brown
Released: February 1, 2011
Source: Star Book Tours
Page Count: 368

Rating: Didn't like it

He's come to do a job.

A job that involves a dead body.

You Killed Wesley Payne is a truly original and darkly hilarious update of classic pulp noir, in which hard-boiled seventeen-year-old Dalton Rev transfers to the mean hallways of Salt River High to take on the toughest case of his life. The question isn't whether Dalton's going to get paid. He always gets paid. Or whether he's gonna get the girl. He always sometimes gets the girl. The real question is whether Dalton Rev can outwit crooked cops and power-hungry cliques in time to solve the mystery of "The Body" before it solves him.

My Review

Dalton Rev has just transferred to Salt River High. It's not exactly an ordinary school, with the cliques ruling like mobs and snipers keeping everyone in line, so it's a good thing that Dalton is no ordinary guy. He's here on business - the private dick business, to be exact. He has been hired to come look into the supposed suicide of one Wesley Payne. With the odds stacked against him, Dalton has a limited time frame to find the killer - unless the killer gets to him first.

You Killed Wesley Payne reads less like pulp fiction / noir and more like a nerdy kid trying to cover it up by acting like his fictional hero, Lexington Cole, a Hardy Boys-esque mystery novel protagonist. This seemed to me to be a play on the Remington Steele television franchise, in which Remington Steele uses bits of old movies to help him figure out what to do next or how to solve a mystery, and so I didn't find it terribly original. The actions of the high school in general I found simply too ridiculous to be believable, and it was very difficult to continue after reading about a palm being greased for the tenth-plus time. Beaudoin includes a bordering-on-obnoxious amount of extra materials along with the story itself, including a Clique Chart, a separate Clique Index, a glossary, Dalton Rev's scholarship application essays, a snippet of a Lexington Cole story, and a list of Lexington Cole novels (which I'm fairly certain don't exist in real life). These extras total 47 pages. 47! Sheesh. Anyway, another point of contension I have with this book is that Dalton's parents don't even realize that he's in the private investigator business. At the very least, they should be questioning why their son is transferring schools right and left. Lastly, the tone that one would expect from a noir novel was, in my opinion, missing. Instead, Dalton comes off as "more ironic than thou," which is the best term I have to describe a social outcast who tries to overcome it by being "cool" but whose social references are sadly lacking. All in all, this was a lackluster novel. I can see some of the emo-type kids I went to high school with (way back in the day) enjoying this novel, but otherwise I wouldn't recommend it.

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