Rating: Unrated| 354 pages | Candlewick Press | Contemporary | 9/26/2017
I study journalism in college, so I’m generally a sucker for any story about an actual journalist–so the premise of a young teenager teaming up with a seasoned investigative journalist to overturn a wrongful conviction completely intrigued me because I listen to waaay to much true crime wrongful conviction podcast.
14-year-old Trell Taylor is out to prove her father is innocent. She teams up with down-trodden journalist Clemmens Bittner and the two begin to re-investigate the case. As they re-interview witnesses Lehr is able to recreate the 1980’s Drug Wars in a way that will set the scene for younger readers. I also appreciated that Trell has to confront the fact that even though her father was not responsible for the murder of the little girl, that he did sell drugs that were responsible for harming other people’s lives.
Lehr is a distinguished non-fiction writer and his attempt at YA fiction was all over the place. The dialogue would occasionally get way too factual and there was a lot of literal telling not showing. I feel like everyone referred to Trell’s dad as “your daddy” to make the book appeal to a younger audience but it fell flat to me. Clemmens and Trell form this odd couple pairing and I could see what Lehr was trying to do, but the thing was I could see what he was trying to do. Clemmens sort of reminded me of this funny fandom thing called Pepper-jack cheese (See Author Appeal).The only person who seems to have a full arc on the page is this older former investigative journalist who at the end of the book gets his groove back and the attention of a young lawyer. Just sayin’.
With all that said I do think this book is a great way to introduce wrongful convictions and delayed justice. Would have much rather read this in middle school than Park’s Quest.
Check out the audiobook review at AudioFile Magazine!