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Review: You Killed Wesley Payne

March 3, 2011

Title: You Killed Wesley Payne
Author: Sean Beaudoin
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Relase Date: February 1, 2011
Pages: 368
Genre: YA, Mystery

When hard-boiled seventeen year-old Dalton Rev transfers to the mean hallways of Salt River High to take on the toughest case of his life. The question isn’t whether Dalton’s going to get paid. He always gets paid. Or whether he’s gonna get the girl. He always (sometimes) gets the girl. The real question is whether Dalton Rev can outwit crooked cops and killer cliques in time to solve the mystery of “The Body” before it solves him.–Goodreads 

I sooo, sooo dig this book. I love old school, pulp, detective novels and movies, and this book is definitely a modern take on that style and genre. The main character, Dalton, fancies himself a detective, and takes a case where he has to solve the mystery of who killed Wesley Payne, a student at Salt River High, which is basically the scariest sounding high school I’ve ever heard of–everyone is part of a clique that not only has a specific angle, but also a racket, and is comprised of smooth-talkin’, cold, business-only kind of teenagers. The girls fall into two categories: kick ass femme fatales and doe-eyed blondes with a secret, and the guys are all just crooked–not one of them is genuine and nice. (Okay, well maybe two of them are.) 

The main character, Dalton, is a weird mix between Jason Schwartzman’ s affably puckish character on Bored to Death and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s determined, so-serious-its-scary character (who gets beat up a lot) in Brick. [Sidenote: If you haven’t seen Brick, you should watch it.] Dalton has good detective instincts, but he relies on detective novels (that won’t necessarily help him in real life) to guide him in his investigation. However, the kid has cajones and the ability to make himself believe that he’s confident and tough. As he learns, those two traits will get him pretty far. 

The most striking thing about the book is the language. It evokes the prose in old school pulp fiction novels, full of sass, gumption, and cheekily subtle turns of phrase. And for those of you who aren’t as familiar with the vocab, never fear! There’s a glossary in the back. 

But language isn’t the only throwback in this novel. The book follows the typical pulp fiction story arc, full of melancholia, disappointments, twists, turns, surprises, and double-crossings. It’s a fun read that ends very differently than you think it will, and it keeps you guessing and surprised the entire time. 

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