Author: Sara Shepard
Genre: Young Adult | Mystery
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
I need some answers about my sister. Help…
Five years ago, high school senior Helena Kelly disappeared from her backyard in Dexby, Connecticut, never to be heard from again. Her family was left without any answers—without any idea who killed Helena, or why.
So when eighteen-year-old Seneca Frazier sees a desperate post on the Case Not Closed message board, she knows it’s time to change that. Helena’s high-profile disappearance is the one that originally got Seneca addicted to true crime. It’s the reason she’s a member of the site in the first place.
Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, she agrees to spend spring break in Connecticut working on the case with Maddy Wright, her best friend from Case Not Closed. However, the moment she steps off the train, things start to go wrong. Maddy’s nothing like she expected, and Helena’s sister, Aerin, doesn’t seem to want any help after all. Plus, Seneca has a secret of her own, one that could derail the investigation if she’s not careful.
Alongside Brett, another super-user from the site, they slowly begin to unravel the secrets Helena kept in the weeks before her disappearance. But the killer is watching…and determined to make sure the case stays cold (goodreads).
The Amateurs starts off with the normal Sara Shepard flair but then slowly starts to lose its spark and direction.
Plot: When Aerin was eleven, she thought that her relationship with her older sister, Helena, was back on track. Less than an hour later, Helena goes missing and her body is found years later. After the police fail to bring answers to Aerin and her mother, Aerin has a desperate moment and she asks random amateur sleuths on the internet for help with her sister's case.
The story of Helena hiding secrets that could have led to her death is so Sara Shepard that I would be a fool to ignore this book. Unlike her other books, the mystery and danger never felt looming behind every page and a lot of the shocking scenes felt forced. I like to make wild guesses alongside the characters when I'm reading, and the revelations that Seneca and her cohorts have throughout The Amateurs seemed to come out of nowhere with very little logic. Even with all of these flaws, I found myself returning to this book in hopes of an ending that wowed, and I can say that I was sufficiently surprised.
Characters: Sara Shepard's books typically follow rich teenage girls in an exclusive neighborhood. Although the majority of the characters in The Amateurs were in college or entering college, I found them to be young. Like younger than the PPL girls. There were a lot of misunderstandings that led to explosive reactions and the dialogue was fairly juvenile. I would recommend this book for a younger audience if it wasn't for the substance abuse.
Worldbuilding: Dexby, Connecticut was the perfect setting for this mystery. It was the upper-crust of the upper class with bored teenagers and keggers at local mansions. I would love to visit this world more in the sequel, especially Aerin's high school. I think Shepard's strongest worldbuilding has always stemmed from her high school settings.
Short N Sweet: The Amateurs is not my favorite mystery novel by Sara Shepard, but it still had me thinking about it!