A Review: Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

trouble is a friend of mine

I received this book as an advance copy through Penguin’s First to Read program in exchange for an advance review.  This book hits stores on August 4 (this Tuesday!)

I have mentioned before that I have a YA first draft novel in the making. I would really love to have my book read like this one.

Stephanie Tromly, the author, is trained as a screenwriter and as such my favorite part of this book was the dialogue. It is tight, it is edgy, and the references that it makes to pop culture are classic, funny, and relevant.  The way the characters quipped at each other was realistic but moved the plot forward.

There were a few other good giveaways that this book was crafted by a screenwriter:

1. Action: This book is full of fast paced, relevant action.  I believe that it is the sort of thing that publishers mean when they are asking for submissions of ‘high concept’ novels. (Note: I said I believe.  I am not, nor have ever been a publisher myself so this is just my own belief). A child trying to rectify his own traumatic past by becoming a hero for a recent crime where he lives.  Interesting, heartbreaking, but Tromley does not make this maudlin.

2. Characters: Characters are the usual players in YA novels, which is not a bad thing because these are the characters to whom teenagers relate.  However, these characters still have depth, surprises, and change.  They are appealing on the outside but slowly reveal themselves to be more than appealing, but interesting.

3. Backstory/Exposition: The relevant backstory is sprinkled in at opportune times and teasing chunks without slowing down the action. One of the main characters, Digby, had a sister who was kidnapped when he was young and the case was never solved.  Instead of waiting for the characters to become close enough for him to tell her this story, which would probably have been a moment between them that was more intimate more quickly than the author intended, the main character just googles him almost as a matter of course and reads up on the difficult past.

This book will probably have a sequel, as there are unanswered questions at the end.  Some of the other reviewers indicated that the book worked out a little too easily, but here’s the thing: I feel like teenagers find closure and resolution (even if they have to read a sequel to get it) appealing.  The teen years are full of unanswered questions and the feeling that one needs to have answers without the experience to be confident in those answers. I felt that it provided enough closure for teens without being completely pat.

As a final note of this review, I want to add that this book is better for the older, rather than younger, teen set.  The characters themselves do not do anything too terrible, but there is enough edgy action and sex and drug references to aim it more toward early high school than middle school.  But, to each his own.

Thoughts/comments/questions?  Leave a comment below!

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