Shayne Blank is the new kid in town—but that doesn’t stop him from getting into a lot of trouble, very quickly. The other kids don’t understand him. He’s not afraid of anything. He seems too smart. His background doesn’t add up. And when he walks into the police department to confess to a murder, it quickly becomes apparent that nothing is as it seems. There’s more to Shayne—and his story—than meets the eye. And as the details pile up, the only thing that becomes clear is that nothing is clear at all.
One of the oldest tropes a stranger comes to town gets fresh treatment in this gripping whodunit. Sixteen-year-old Shayne Blank arrives at the police station to confess to murder; his story spills out in chapters that alternate with those of Mikey Martin, the smallest junior at Wellstone High, and George Rawls, the grizzled veteran cop who takes Shayne's confession. Shayne, a larger-than-life character with ninja lightness and several different versions of his backstory, rides into the school parking lot on a battered motorcycle. He immediately befriends Mikey, a highly appealing underdog who compensates for his lack of stature by dressing "big," in three-piece suits he buys at a thrift store near a synagogue ("ll those thirteen-year-old Jewish kids wear them once for their bar mitzvah then grow out of them"). Mikey has riled his sister's boyfriend, Jon, primary supplier to the school's stoner population, when Shayne comes to his aid. Though the story has many dark moments, Mikey's self-deprecating narration keeps it from getting too serious, and Hautman's skillful pacing, funny dialogue, and fully realized characters make this a taut mystery that's nearly impossible to put down. Ages 12 up.