Monday, June 25, 2012

Deviant by Adrian McKinty

Danny Lopez's family has relocated to a quiet Colorado town where he gets to attend an experimental school centered on teaching discipline to children who need "guidance." Some of the rules include school uniforms, including white gloves for sanitation, a rigid teaching script that's read to students and repeated daily, and no socialization among faculty and students- ever. As if this wasn't weird enough, Danny finds himself recruited by secret student organizations determined to find the serial cat killer. As the clues mount up, and the killer becomes more bold, will he make it out alive?

I rarely give one star, but this middle grade novel was...not good. In fact, I made myself finish it even though I wanted to put it away less than halfway through. The book opens with a very eerie and cryptic cat killer in the process of sacrificing a cat, which grabbed my attention right away. Unfortunately, there was nothing after that scene that prompted tension or suspense because the characters and plot became very mundane. I think that part of this is because the author tried to have too many subplots (romance, conspiracy, teenage angst)in an effort to distract the reader from being able to identify the killer; however, it simply caused the story to go on meaningless tangents rather than weaving a tale of suspense.

Another problem with this novel was that the characters were extremely shallow. The plot would allude to struggles in characters' pasts without really using those to let the reader get to know them on a deeper level. To use a teacher phrase, the author did a lot of "telling" and not "showing," which is pretty boring. Most readers don't want to have an event summarized for them; they want to experience it with the characters so that they can build a connection. These characters were two-deminsional at best.

The ending had a lot of action in it, but by that point, most readers can already figure out who the killer is, so the climax falls flat. Even when there was a twist at the end, if readers pay attention to contextual details, it's not too difficult to see it coming.

Overall, this novel had an interesting concept but poor execution.

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