c3 may be the closest attempt I ever make to writing a young adult novel, but the experience left me with a better appreciation of the challenges faced in crafting a story that is realistic, timely and yet appropriate for all young readers. This is not an easy needle to thread, and when I heard that I knew someone who knew someone who had written a fairly successful young adult horror novel, I decided to give it a try. I am so glad I did.
Ruth Baron has written a thoroughly enjoyable book. Given that I am neither a big fan of horror stories nor of tales of unhappy misfits, this is high praise. It helped that the protagonist, Jason, has a better sense of humor and more common sense than most. Not only is he likable, but his world is filled with both teens and adults who are basically decent people who sometimes behave poorly. It’s not a story that makes you cringe or a world you can’t wait to leave.
The horror aspects center around the creepiness of a dead friend on Facebook and while there are scenes you might not want to read while alone on a dark stormy night, Baron shows class as she avoids inserting anything truly disgusting just for shock value.
If I had one quarrel with the book it was that the friendship between social klutz Jason and popular Rakesh was hard to believe. Many a charismatic kid has ditched his or her best grade school friend when they turned out to be a social liability in junior high. Okay, I like to think that kids like Rakesh exist, and Baron really tried hard to convince me that they do, but I’m not sure I believe her.
What surprised me most is that the book is also very much a crime novel, and a well done one at that. There are only so many options to explain a Facebook relationship with the dead, after all, and most if not all of them involve some kind of a crime. Baron crafts a clever solution to the situation and adds a twist or two to keep the reader guessing. It’s a fun read for mystery lovers of any age.