What seems like a fun end-of year game of scavenger hunt may be a murder . . . or thirteen.
The Bakersville Dozen
by Kristina McBride
Sky Pony Press hardcover, also available as an ebook
On Sale: July 18, 2017 | ISBN: 978-1-5107-0805-1
320 pages | Price: $17.99 | Ages 14+
“From the painfully high stakes to the heart-pounding timeline, this twisty thriller left me breathless! McBride’s tale hits eerily close to home, too, reminding us how quickly things can turn from bad to much, much worse.” —Natalie D. Richards, author of One Was Lost
The latest heart-pounding thriller from Kristina McBride blends elements of Gone Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and Stephen King into a story that will leave you guessing until the final pages.
Back in September, the town of Bakersville, Ohio, made national news when a video went viral featuring thirteen of the high school’s elite in compromising positions. Now it’s May, and every month since the “Bakersville Dozen” made their infamous appearance on the national stage, one girl has gone missing. Officials are no closer to identifying the criminal.
Bailey “Like a Virgin” Holzman is getting really fed up with the scrutiny. She just wants to enjoy the rest of her senior year, and have an epic summer before heading off to college, so when she discovers a note in her locker on the last day of school inviting her on a scavenger hunt, she thinks it’s just a sweet surprise from her boyfriend trying to cheer her up.
But following the clue leads her, instead, to the first official casualty. And another sinister envelope. The killer is close, and it could be anyone. Even the people Bailey’s always trusted most—her best friend, her perfect boyfriend, or the boy-next-door she’s always pined for.
With the clock ticking, she faces a terrifying choice: play the game by the killer’s rules—follow the clues, tell no one, and no cops—for a chance to save the rest of the missing girls, or risk becoming the next grisly victim.
My how deceptive this bright, cute little cover was! This is NOT your average ya contemporary, full of sunshine and cupcakes. Actually there is no cake at all. Who do I talk to about that?
But I’m getting off the point. The Bakersville Dozen is a gripping read which tackles some tough topics, including some material that may be difficult for younger readers. However, the author was careful to not be overly graphic or disturbing either. It was a really great balance between dark and informative, at times even humorous (See more about balance in the guest post below.)
As a mother of a kid with special needs, books about children disappearing can be impossible to read, but that wasn’t the case here, thankfully, and I was able to enjoy the experience, and the tension and suspense, without having a panic attack of my own.
Sometimes, as you’ll see mentioned in the guest post, authors go further than parents would like, so that’s why I like to read middle grade and young adult books. To stay on top of the current trends in literature, and to escape for myself. If well written, I’ll take a middle grade fantasy over an adult horror book half the time!
McBride’s plotting and pacing are excellent, building and ebbing at the right times to keep the book from dragging or feeling stopped short.
The characters are fairly complex, though some of the supporters could have used a bit more weight to them, overall I thought this was a good ensemble. I also felt the use of single POV was a good call, as there is so much information with the case and the scavenger hunt that switching would have been too confusing.
There are some surprises in store, for sure, and you’ll be flipping the pages quickly, though you might not want to read it right before bed, if you scare easily, or jump when someone coughs in a quiet room.
4 stars and my thanks to the author and publisher for the review and discussion opportunity!
About the Author
Kristina McBride is a former high school English teacher and yearbook advisor, as well as an adjunct professor at Antioch University Midwest and Wright State University. She has a thing for music, trees, purses, and chocolate. She is the author of The Tension of Opposites, One Moment, and A Million Times Goodnight. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two young children. Visit her online at kristinamcbride.com or follow her on Twitter @McBrideKristina.
Guest Post by the Author
The term ‘Moral Integrity’ is something I’ve heard in the news often lately, reigniting a question I’ve spent a lot of time pondering: What responsibilities do authors hold when it comes to integrating Moral Integrity in their works? Countless books have been published that depict immoral characters carrying out depraved actions against others. Depending on your appetite for a heart-pumping, palms-sweating, edge-of-your seat read, some of these books can be a ridiculously fun ride. But these types of stories are only fun because they’re not real.
This truth tumbled me right into another. Before an event can occur in reality, it must first exist in someone’s mind as a mere thought. This is one of those universal principles that hold true in almost every scenario you can imagine, right? As an author, especially an author who writes for teen readers, that’s kind of scary. What thoughts are my books planting in the minds of my teen readers? How careful should I be when choosing what I allow my characters to do? How much should I force a story in a new direction if my plot turns more twisted than I intended?
As a former high school English teacher and mother of two middle grade kids, I often feel the need to tone things down, to think twice before including something in a story that might be too dark or edgy. This side of me digs in during revision, trying to soften the blows that my characters carry out against each other.
At the same time, I need to be true to my story, to allow my characters to be exactly who they are without interference, so I have to take a step back and let the story play out uninterrupted. My only option is to let go. So I do. But I’m pretty dark at heart. I love thrillers that amp up the suspense with every page. I’m a die-hard fan of horror, the scarier the better. This means that my own writing tends to veer into dark territory.
The thing is, whether we’re talking about MG or YA, certain kids can handle the darker, edgier books published in their age range. Others cannot. As young readers mature, what they can handle changes, sliding along a personal scale that ranges from “Appropriate” to “Definitely Not.” Because of this, the publishing industry will continue to crank out books that fall along the full spectrum—from the light, easy reads to the dark and edgy—offering stories that will appeal to all types of young readers. When my thoughts hit this point, I gain clarity.
Ultimately, it’s up to parents to decide what each young reader should and should not be exposed to. This can be a tricky endeavor, as it’s hard to keep up with daily life, let alone the fictional lives kids are exposed to through books. But no one knows what a child can and cannot handle better than his or her own parents. I’ll argue that keeping up with what our children are reading might be one of the most important things we do as parents. By reading the same books, a line of communication opens between child and parent that would otherwise be restricted. If we parents let go of our fears, we might find that books offer the opportunity to begin some of the most difficult, yet essential, conversations we will ever have with our kids.
My views on my responsibility as an author will likely change from year to year, from book to book. But for now, I have no other choice but to trust my mama instinct and follow my author gut. If I listen to both, I’ll find myself somewhere in the middle. As with most things in life, it’s all about balance.
There’s one other universal truth that helps when I’m feeling unsure—stories exist to entertain, to educate, to inspire, to offer an escape from reality, to frame our experiences, and even to allow a reader to experience something “bad” without actually playing that experience out in reality. If my readers follow along as my characters make poor choices, maybe that will inspire them to make better choices in the future.
A special thanks to Skyhorse Publishing, who provided an extra copy of the book especially for one of you, dear readers! Just comment on this post and let me know if you’re following me, and the author, for bonus points! Winner on September 30, US and CA only, please. Cheers!