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Easy Prey

by Catherine Lo

More than just a racy whodunnit, Catherine Lo’s second YA novel is eerily well plotted. When nude photos of high-school law teacher Ms. Bailey end up online, seniors Jenna, Drew, and Mouse know that it had to be one of them who leaked the pictures. After all,  they’re the ones who deceived her into sharing them. Each student swears innocence, but as the story unfolds – shuttling between the three characters’ narrations – they all appear increasingly suspicious.

On the surface each protagonist fits a classic high-school stereotype (the rebel, the nerd, and the jock), yet Lo adds enough depth to keep them from feeling clichéd. With her take-no-bullshit attitude, Jenna is definitely the most likable of the three. After her ex-boyfriend tweeted her own topless photos the year before, the former “good girl” set fire to her old image – and her ex’s truck. While basketball player Drew seems to have it all, he lives in the constant shadow of the team’s star, who happens to be his best friend. But forget sympathizing with him, considering his history of scoring naked pictures of his female classmates and passing them around to his friends. And then there’s super-genius Mouse, the “nice guy” who’s reluctantly in the friend zone with Jenna. But Mouse has a secret: in order to finance his admission to MIT, he developed a database for the basketball team to store their X-rated photos.

While all three hate Ms. Bailey, the question is which one of them would go so far as to publicly expose and humiliate her? Although this mystery is at the forefront, Lo also presents an exploration of privacy in the digital age and just how complicated it becomes when teenage hormones are involved. Jenna’s story is one that readers may find all too familiar: she thought it was safe to share sexual photos with her long-term boyfriend, but her trust was betrayed and they landed online. Instead of her boyfriend being punished, Jenna was the one who suffered, being labelled a slut – and a victim – and being told that she “should have been more careful.” In the age of #MeToo, it’s this dark element of the story – and how Jenna deals with the fallout – that will likely resonate most with adolescent readers.