By: Catherine A. Winn
Publisher: The Poisoned Pencil
Publication Date: 2015
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: July 24, 2015
Catherine A. Winn treats her young adult audience to an engaging work of suspense in her debut novel, Beyond Suspicion.
It's hard enough trying to fit into middle school, but it's especially hard for Shelby. She is the statistic when it comes to her home life. Her parents are divorced and her mom has remarried. Not only does she have a new dad, but a new baby brother as well. Often, it feels like she is the odd man out and the built-in babysitter for her new brother, Josh. Why did her mom and dad split anyway? And why did her mom have to go and have a kid with her stepfather? Whatever. Tonight was her night. Her parents were letting her go to her first boy-girl party and Lord knows Shelby had spent weeks preparing for this monumental event. However, when Shelby gets home from school that afternoon, she wasn't prepared for the re-shuffle of her cards. Roger (stepdad) has changed his mind and informs Shelby she will be babysitting Josh...again!
Furious and disgusted, Shelby needs to cool off. She figures if she takes Josh for a stroll to the park, by the time she gets home, maybe her parents will change their mind and hire a babysitter so she can still make the party later that evening. On her way, she passes that white van again. Who is that bleached blonde wearing the baseball cap and that sketchy guy? No matter, next stop, the park. The park is a busy place today-soccer game, lots of runners and noise. Shelby manages a quiet bench off the beaten path to be sure baby brother Josh doesn't wake from his nap. Everything is going fine until a series of loud pops disturbs her thoughts. Reactively, Shelby follows the other on-lookers toward the source of the commotion. It turns out it was nothing more than a bunch of yahoos setting off firecrackers. When she returns to check on her sleeping brother, panic sets in. Shelby is horrified when she peeks into the stroller and finds he is no longer there. She immediately launches into a frenzied search for her missing brother only to come up empty-handed. Her stomach does a flip when she thinks about going home and she has to explain to her mom and stepfather why it is only her and she has no idea what has happened to baby Josh.
Catherine A. Winn launches mystery and intrigue early on in Beyond Suspicion. The essence of a winning mystery is to deliver the body and do so within the first handful of pages. Character baby Josh is the 'body' in this case and Winn confidently establishes his departure. The dialogue and hormonal roller coaster emotions assigned to main teen character Shelby are signature. She owns her acting out as teens are oh-so capable of doing. There is a nuance that threads throughout this read related to turn-on-the-dime snubbing adolescents are naturally capable of demonstrating as well. The dynamics are further solidified with the premise of one day, Shelby has a BFF and in the click of moments, she is the posterchild of the kid no parent wants his or her kid associated with. This is a great read for young adults looking for something quick and relatable. It has all the credible elements of 'tween-aged' adolescence and presents many opportunities for its audience to apply a theory of 'what would I do if faced with a similar situation?' Ms. Winn has done a great job in delivering her debut novel, Beyond Suspicion. In my opinion, it would bode well on school library bookshelves.
Quill says: Beyond Suspicion is a terrific 'food for thought' mystery for young adults.