James Klise, April 2014. Sophomore tennis player Saba Khan is devastated when a fire destroys her family’s West Rogers Park apartment. Saba goes to private school, and the other students and their families rally around her, offering their help to get her back on her feet. The school decides to hold an auction to benefit the Khan family, and in the process, siblings Kevin and Kendra Spoon find artwork in an alley. The art turns out to be lost works by Henry Darger, and is worth at least half a million dollars. Then it disappears. Who’s to blame?
The novel is told in documents (news articles, texts, diary entries, etc.) written by a handful of narrators: Saba, her father, her secret boyfriend, Kevin and Kendra, exchange student Javier, the school principal, and three teachers. The idea of a story told in documents isn’t new; Stephen King did it in Carrie, for example, but he really just used it to advance the chronology. In Klise’s hands, the concept rises to a whole new level. One of the narrators is unreliable (one of my favorite literary devices), and because of the document format, it’s impossible to tell. I had to go back at the end and, in astonished disbelief, find the parts that revealed the truth. I’m still not sure what exactly happened in some ways, like who set the fire; I wish this book would be published already so I could talk about it with other readers.
This was easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. I loved the mystery, so rare in YA fiction, but I also loved the individual characters, at least the ones I was supposed to love. The different points of view created tons of red herrings and characters who behave suspiciously but are innocent, or are they? in more layers than I’ve seen in teen lit. Plus, unreliable narrators! Oh, and a gay teacher. And a Chicago setting. Love.