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*Starred Review* The cliques rule the rackets in Salt River High. The two top outfits, the Balls (football players, wearers of no-irony crew cuts) and Pinker Casket (thrash rockers, most appropriate for funerals or virgin sacrifices), are hurtling toward a turf war, and all the assorted mid-level cliques (and even the crooked Fack Cult T) are constantly looking for an angle to ride to prominence. At the center of the maelstrom is a body, Wesley Payne, a former member of the Euclidians (nerds, fingertip sniffers), who was found wrapped in duct tape, hanging upside-down from the goalposts. Teenage private dick Dalton Rev arrives to sort out the murder, locate a missing hundred grand, and if everything rolls his way, ride off into the sunset with the adorable Macy Payne, Wesley's sister. Beaudoin plays a Chandler hand with a Tarantino smirk in this ultra-clever high-school noir, dropping invented brand labels on everything from energy-drink ingredients (Flavor Flavah) to the Almighty (Oh my Bob!). Ever checking his moves against what his crime-novel hero, Lexington Cole, would do, Dalton himself is so straight hard-boiled, it's screwy: Dalton played it cool. He played it frozen. He was in full Deano at the Copa mode. But in the end, none of the stylistic pastiche and slick patter would matter if they weren't hitched to such a propulsive mystery, with enough double-crosses and blindsiding reveals to give you vertigo. Moreover, the opening Clique Chart might just be the funniest four pages you'll read all year.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2010 Booklist
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Beaudoin offers up a fast-paced mashup of noir homage and high school satire that's often witty, but founders under the weight of its ambition. Dalton Rev models his life on his favorite detective, Lexington Cole, and brings his hard-boiled sensibilities to Salt River High-a place that resembles "school" in only the loosest of senses-where cute Macy Payne has hired him to find out who killed her brother, found hanged on the football goalposts. Rev's wanderings bring him into contact with assorted cliques (helpfully outlined in a guide at the front of the book), which include everyone from poetry-worshipping Plaths to brainy Euclidians as well as Lee Harvies (anarchic, gun-toting snipers). Beaudoin (Fade to Blue) wavers too often between fleshing out his characters and keeping his world off-kilter (a subplot involving Rev getting into Harvard is particularly painful). The resulting concoction is in the surreal vein of recent books like Going Bovine and Andromeda Klein, but never quite meshes the social satire of the cliques with Rev's concerns about his family, and the muddled ending does the story no favors. Ages 12-up. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal
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Gr 9 Up-Dalton Rev is a hard-boiled teen detective searching for a killer in a high school ruled by ruthless cliques and corrupt adults. The social structure at Salt River High is so complex that readers will need an organizational chart and an index to keep track. These are thoughtfully provided at the beginning of the book, and they make for some hilarious reading. Dalton, armed with his Private Dick Handbook and a copy of his favorite detective novel, walks into an impending war between the Balls (jocks) and Pinker Caskets (rockers) for control of the campus rackets. Other cliques (Euclideans, Foxxes, Populahs) and the Fack Cult T jockey for position and profit. The crime noir story, combined with the exaggerated high school social structure, is very funny-for the first 100 pages. The cliched dialogue and stereotyped characters wear thin but there is a compelling mystery here that will keep readers guessing. Unfortunately, the ending is too contrived and, well, too weird to be satisfying. Snarky outsiders may enjoy this novel but many teens will tire of the story or find it too confusing.-Anthony C. Doyle, Livingston High School, CA (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.