Peter Abrahams is the author of Down the Rabbit Hole and Behind the Curtain, both of which I liked because they are middle grade/middle school mystery novels that deal with real mysteries (dead bodies, etc.). I also commented when I reviewed those that Abrahams, an author of adult mysteries, has a good feel for the voice of teens (he has four children, and I'm sure that helps).
Reality Check is, I believe, Abrahams' first YA novel. Cody Larado comes from a difficult background (dead mother, alcoholic father). His only hope for getting out of his small town is football. Cody, a high school junior, is the school quarterback, at least until he blows out his knee. The contrast between Cody's life and that of his wealthy, perfect girlfriend, Clea, eventually becomes too much. The two break up right before Clea goes east to attend boarding school. But when Clea disappears while riding her horse in the snowy Vermont woods, Cody drops everything and leaves his home in Colorado to try to find her.
Reality Check is a somewhat bleak novel. Cody's future looks pretty grim, and the atmosphere in Clea's snowy Vermont town is downright ominous. You don't know whether or not Clea is dead. This is definitely YA, not middle grade. There is also some mature language, and not-very-graphic references to sex.
Reality Check is also suspenseful and (for a mystery novel), quite realistic. I did see the ending coming before Cody did, but not by much (there's one line that positively gives the game away -- I think that Abrahams wants the reader to see what trouble Cody is getting into before he does).
I didn't identify very well with Cody, a struggling student whose only real interest (besides Clea) is football. But I still liked him, and wanted him to succeed. There was one passage that made me feel old, when Cody, in a hotel room, sees his first black and white televsion set. But this is probably realistic. And, of course, I'm not the target audience. Reality Check is definitely boy-friendly, with plenty of references to sports, and a boys-eye view of being in love. We get a lot of Cory's inner monologue, like this:
"Mr. Weston's eyes--similar in color to Clea's but in no other way--rose slowly up to Cody's face. DId he notice that COdy was wearing his shirt. No way to tell.
"That your car in the drive?" he said, not furious, not even loud, but Cody's spine felt icy just the same. "I asked you a question," Mr. Weston said after a moment or two of silence.
Was it a serious question. Mr. Weston had seen Cody's car before, and besides, who else's could it be, an old banger like that in the Weston's circular driveway." (Chapter 2)
I would recommend Reality Check for fans of John Feinstein's sports mysteries, or anyone looking for a mystery/thriller for teenage boys. It's a quick read, with a distinctive voice, and an intriguing, twisty plot.
Publisher: HarperTeen (@HarperTeen)
Publication Date: April 27, 2010
Source of Book: Library eBook
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).