Monday, March 9, 2015

Cold Calls.

Benoit, Charles.  Cold Calls.  Houghton Mifflin/Clarion     2014  278p  $17.99  ISBN 978-0-547-23950-4      hs      Mystery/Detective  VG-BN     

Eric, Shelly, and Fatima all have secrets.  But they don’t share the same secret, even though they are all being blackmailed into bullying specifically targeted schoolmates by a mysterious caller who holds these secrets over their heads.  The three meet while on suspension from school and attend the same bullying intervention program.  They team up to discover the anonymous caller who threatens them before their personal pasts are exposed.

Part thriller
and part mystery, Cold Calls explores the issues of bullying, privacy, and responsibility.  The emphasis is placed on trying to figure out who the blackmailer is, rather than on the acts that the blackmailer demands.  But each of the characters has a destructive secret which until now they had successfully kept under wraps.  Readers will be fascinated by “good” students who are pressured into role reversals to act as bullies in order to protect their secrets. 

Topical and up-to-the-moment, the team uses plausible resources to track their antagonist, while stringing the reader along without a quick reveal.  Fast-paced and engaging, the novel is open-ended enough to warrant a sequel.            

Summary: While on suspension, Shelly, Eric, and Fatima, who have nothing else in common, try to identify and stop the person who blackmailed each of them by phone to perform very specific acts of bullying at their high schools. “I know your secret.”

Bullying-Fiction, School-Fiction                            --Hilary Welliver

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