Rating: 4.75 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Gianna “Gigi” Ricci is a girl from the poor side of her Cleveland-area suburb. She’s a bisexual high school junior, as well as being a jiu-jitsu blue belt, having trained at her former MMA-fighter mother’s knee from childhood. Gigi’s mom is non-binary and her older brother Luca, a senior at their high school, is a gay theater nerd. Gigi’s pretty much only friends with nerds, has antisocial tendencies, and inflammatory bowel syndrome, which further complicates her life. She’s been suspended for fighting twice, and recently was almost suspended for breaking the nose of a homophobic student who bullied her and Luca. Luca’s bestie, Mari, is lesbian, and Gigi has had a crush on her a long time. Mari and Gigi’s bestie, Sean, are the only members of the Mystery and Thrillers Literary Scholars Club at their high school, which is in danger of disbanding due to lack of membership.

Gigi’s been getting tutored in math with her favorite teacher, Mr. Ford. He’s a straight shooter and loves MMA, so they have an unexpected kinship. Mari asks Gigi to be a part of the Mystery Club to boost their numbers, and gets Mr. Ford to sign on as a club sponsor. Unfortunately, when Gigi stops by Mr. Ford’s class after her latest detention, she finds him dead on the floor–with Mari and Sean showing up immediately, because they were tipped off by an email from “Miss Mystery.”

Meanwhile, Gigi’s not convinced Mr. Ford’s death was entirely accidental. He supposedly fell while hanging a math cat-pun poster, but that’s totally out of character for the snarky man. Why was he meeting someone about “Big Willy”–the elusive campus person students pay for essays and other schoolwork? And then, there are the awful threats the Club members are receiving from an anonymous emailer. No one is off limits, including Luca and new members of the club. Gigi’s ready to kick ass and give names to the cops, but in the meantime, she’s also recognizing that some of the people in her life have different motives for their supposed actions. Like Cedar, a rich friend of Luca’s, who seems to be into Mari, but is she actually hitting on Gigi? Cedar’s tech skills prove paramount, and Gigi’s acid tongue causes a reckoning that opens new doors.

Holy cow! I have found the fun, YA, queer, mystery book (series?) my teen self needed….decades later. I was just turning page after page, loving Gigi from the beginning. She’s a take-no-crap kind of person that wants life to be better than it is. She has a huge chip on her shoulder, and acknowledges that. Her morality isn’t in question, which allows her impulsive and impetuous actions to be admirable, instead of condemnable. She loved Mr. Ford as a person, as a teacher, and she wants justice for him and his widow. She wants to protect her brother and his friends as best she can, even if it means forays into the boys’ locker room where she might witness exposed peen. She will 110% throat-punch an attacker, especially if one of her club members is in the crosshairs. She’s gritty and not the brightest at school, but clever and intuitive in a way that harkens back to cozy mystery sleuths of the ages. I adored her honesty, her sassiness, her brashness, her teen angst, and all the insecurities that made her Gigi. I even identified with her IBS–and the fears she has related to that chronic disease.

It’s maybe hinted that there will be more stories with this queer cast, and I’m absolutely down for more of these books. I found the mystery compelling and the way it all rolled out to be both plausible and fun–even with the violent scenes. I identified the killer early on, but the twists and turns made for a good chase, and kept me guessing. While I had the killer picked, it was so awesome that the eventual motive wasn’t as clichéd as I had initially envisioned. It was a fun romp–despite one murder, a stabbing, and an almost-murder–of Gigi.

If you like YA adventure/mystery/romance, this book should get on your TBR list ASAP.