All Dylan wants is mojo. What is mojo? It's power. The ability to command respect. It's everything Dylan doesn't have. He gets no respect at school, and when he finds the dead body of a classmate, even the police push him around. All the thanks he gets for trying to help the investigation with his crime drama skills is a new nickname at school: Body Bag. So when Dylan hears about a missing rich girl from the other side of town, he jumps at the chance to dive into this mystery. Surely if he cracks a case involving a girl this beautiful and this rich, he'll get not only a hefty cash reward, but the mojo he's looking for.
His investigation takes him into the world of an elite private high school and an underground club called Gangland. As Dylan—along with his loyal friends Audrey and Randy—falls down the rabbit hole, lured by the power of privilege, he begins to lose himself. And the stakes of the game keep getting higher.
Overweight and unnoticed, Dylan badly wants to acquire mojo, that ineffable something that would make him popular. Accidentally discovering the dead body of a classmate named Hector doesn t do it but, inspired by his love of a bad TV detective show, 16-year-old Dylan decides he s going to try to find rich girl Ashton, who has gone missing. With fellow outsiders Audrey and Randy, Dylan makes new friends at the exclusive Hollister School that Ashton attended and joins the search party. As Dylan s investigation continues, he suspects that Ashton s kidnapping might be related to Hector s death. In this tongue-in-cheek tribute to hardboiled detectives, Tharp (Badd) contrasts the book s serious subjects including drug use, statutory rape, and murder with a stylized narrative in a way that recalls Sean Beaudoin s You Killed Wesley Payne. In this case, though, Dylan s extemporaneous past-tense narration (which often uses the slightly jarring present-tense phrase I m like to introduce dialogue) makes the entire wild escapade read as though he s recounting it over burgers at his favorite local joint, Topper s. Ages 12 up.