Stephanie Tromly’s Trouble is a Friend of Mine is a mixture of a standard Sarah Dessen novel and a crime-based (as opposed to supernatural-based) Jodi Picoult story, but a little lighter. Lighter, even though it deals with disappearing girls, drugs and violence. (Sorry, every female teen author I read is going to be compared to Dessen. Get over it.)
Zoe Webster has just moved from Manhattan to Upstate New York after her parents’ nasty divorce, and she is doing everything in her power to get back to Manhattan. Her plan is to excel at River Heights High School, transfer to a prestigious private school and eventually get into an Ivy League college, all while completely ignoring her mother and avoiding all potential new friends in River Heights. The not-making-new-friends part is no problem given that no one wants anything to do with new girl. Enter Digby, the ultimate troublemaker and the boy who turns Zoe’s world around.
(As I write this post, that song Trouble is a Friend is playing over and over again in my head. I wonder if Stephanie Tromly had that problem while writing the book? Or if that’s where she came up with the title in the first place?!?!)
Digby, Zoe soon learns, is a charming class clown/rebel without a cause, always outsmarting authority figures and getting away with his antics. She also soon learns about his complicated past — his little sister, Sally, disappeared from his house when she was very young, and the whole town blamed Digby’s family — and how it may somehow be tied to the current mystery: the disappearance of fellow high schooler Marina Miller. The unlikely team of Zoe, Digby, his dreamy football player friend Henry, Henry’s not-so-dreamy popular girlfriend Sloane and nerdy shrimp Felix attempts to find out what happened to Marina and Sally, with every step of the way planned perfectly by Digby.
Honestly, the crime-solving aspects of the story need a little tightening up — I couldn’t always follow what was happening and how it was all connected, and I don’t think it was my fault. But I assume that tightening up is already in progress as this was an advanced reader’s copy and the book doesn’t even officially come out until August (relationship perks!). I really like the modern tone of this author, and I very much appreciate her references to some of my favorite books/series: The Princess Diaries, The It Girl, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I also like that it isn’t 100% about a romance between Zoe and Digby, that the characters are defined as individuals (although the romantic undertone is definitely there).
Reading books like this always has the same effect on me: it makes me miss the unbelievably simple, small world of high school. It didn’t seem simple then, but now? Piece of cake. I miss high school for most of the time I’m reading the book and then I remember that I earn a decent amount of money, I have a gorgeous (although small) Manhattan apartment and I’m about to marry an extremely good-looking man who gets me advanced reader copies of books, and high school doesn’t seem all that appealing anymore.