Former Los Angeles screenwriter Stephanie Tromly, now based in Winnipeg, marks her YA debut with an action-packed novel about teenager Zoe Webster, who finds herself downgraded from Manhattan living to a small town in upstate New York.
When the mysterious and smooth-talking Philip Digby takes an interest in Zoe, he begins toting her along on his adventures, investigating multiple kidnappings in the area, a suspicious cult “family,” and a corrupt (and creepy) local doctor. Digby, well versed in the town’s goings-on and criminal system (thanks to a dark past of his own), leads a ragtag gang that includes dreamy football player (and Digby’s former best friend) Henry, Henry’s snobby girlfriend Sloane, and hipster-girl-in-the-making Bill.
Tromly uses Zoe’s escapades with Digby and the others – who all hail from different school cliques – to show readers that worrying about fitting into a social hierarchy isn’t the best way to make friends or have fun. Zoe doesn’t really fit in in the strictest sense, but winds up surprisingly civil with Sloane, finding a best friend in Digby, and enjoying her new town in spite of herself.
Though readers don’t get the most in-depth view into Zoe’s mind, they are gradually rewarded with tidbits about her background, and are teased by the star duo’s flirty friendship, which refuses to be a romance (and it’s better that way, really). Though the characters come across as stereotypical and flat at times, they possess a warm familiarity that – along with subtle, encouraging life lessons, on-point, humorous dialogue, and well-paced, just-complicated-enough drama – makes this amusing mystery-adventure appealing and easy to read.