When Laura Rivers moves from California to New Jersey and steps foot into Englewood High School, she’s ready to reinvent herself and start a new life. But when she gets out of her car to greet her new life on her first day of school, rather than welcoming smiles from her classmates, she’s met with looks of confusion, shock, and worst of all, fear. As it turns out, Laura holds an eerie resemblance to Sarah Castro-Tanner, a girl from Englewood who committed suicide two years earlier, shaking her school and tight-knit community of wealth and privilege to their core.
The one bright spot to Laura’s troubling start at EHS is Charlie; a soccer star, and school heart-throb. When Charlie shows interest in her and his group of friends finally start to accept her as one of their own, Laura’s life is finally starting to look up. But when somebody begins cyber-stalking Charlie and his friends, causing wide-spread panic, fear, and paranoia, questions are raised about the death of the girl who Laura so closely resembles.
Oi veh. Where to start? This novel was a doozy from beginning to end. I really don’t read a lot of mysteries or thrillers, but when I do, I love when it’s one I can really sink my teeth into. Dead Ringer was all that and more. With this book taking place in a high school, I wasn’t sure what I was going to think, much less whether I was going to like it. I was afraid that, given the setting, the suspense and “thrill” factor may be toned down to appeal to a younger audience, but, I was pleasantly surprised.
The story starts out on a chipper, somewhat shallow note (I suspect on purpose), and is told primarily from the perspective of 3 individuals; 1 you know, 1 you don’t know, and 1 you think you know, but really have no idea. The characters in this story were nothing short of a complete conundrum. When I started reading Dead Ringer, I had an immediate love for some characters, and an instantaneous seething hatred of others. By the time I finished, my opinion had changed to the polar opposite for every. single. one of them.
Once you get past the hunky dory platitudes, the plot spirals more and more as it builds into something far less glittery. As the story continues, not only do you become more invested in the culture of EHS, the story of Sarah Castro-Tanner, and the well-being of certain characters, but the entire plot becomes more convoluted and more sinister with every page. By 50% I went from loving the book to quite literally not being able to put it down. I ate with it. I walked with it. I lost track of phone calls because I was trying to read… It was bad. When I reached 67%, the story had twisted and turned so much that when a major bomb was dropped, an audible scream ejected from my mouth with such gusto that I startled my dogs (and probably my neighbors’ dog too).
The greatest (and worst) part of the novel? The freakin’ cliff-hanger. Again. Dead Ringer ends with a major one. It’s not one of those cliff-hangers that pissed me off to the point of throwing things, but I’ll admit I was seething a bit. It’s rare that a thriller, especially in YA, has a sequel, but I’m pretty sure this one will. If it doesn’t, all is not right with the world.
Dead Ringer is a lot of things- Dark, sinister, F*ed up, convoluted,… you name it. Seriously, it’s like Gone Girl went to high school. The one thing this novel is not is fluffy. It will keep you on your toes the entire time. It will make you question the traditional roles of good and evil, fact and fiction, hero and villain, and possibly your faith in the human race as a whole. That being said, Dead Ringer took me to a very deep, dark, scary place. I’m still recovering and it scares me a little to imagine where this story could possibly go from here.
* I received this novel as a digital ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*