People Like Us is a boarding school mystery with a Pretty Little Liars vibe. Kay Donovan is the queen bee of a clique that runs the place basically, or they think they do. Along with her friends she is definitely at the top of the social ladder, but that changes quickly after a death at the school. The night of a school dance turns deadly when Jessica Lane is found dead in a lake on the school grounds. At first it seems like a terrible tragedy, but when Kay receives a message from a blogger threatening to spill her secrets, she has to choose between her friends or herself.
Kay has secrets in her past, as befits a good YA book, but they're of the tragic variety. Something terrible happened and she carries a ton of guilt about it. She's also out for a soccer scholarship, her one ticket to escape the poverty she comes from, so she's under a lot of pressure too. The blogger meanwhile seems to know everything about certain events, things her and her friends did to another student, so Kay feels like she has no choice but to go along. I liked Kay, in spite of her history- even though she's a "mean girl" she was also sympathetic to me. I'm not sure other readers would agree, though, and one of the interesting aspects of this book for me would be- how do other readers react to Kay?
I liked this book but I had some issues with it. For one thing, the mystery was different than I was expecting. Some of the things felt like they happened way too fast, which I'll get into in the spoiler section below. One thing I liked was that the author tried to really make it feel like they were at school. I mean, they had to actually study for exams, and it took time, you know? Not just a brief mention. Sounds like a little thing but the little things matter. So there were good and bad things here. It also felt a bit disjointed, in terms of the events and certain consequences, and that threw me a bit.
Kay's best friend Brie and her ally Nola were both interesting characters. Kay has a thing for Brie but Brie has a girlfriend of her own. Kay feels like her and Brie have been on the cusp of a relationship several times, but it never happens. And Nola is a student who's an ace at hacking (naturally) and is able to help Kay try to get to the bottom of things. But everyone is also a suspect here, and the fun part of the book for me was trying to guess whodunit. And why. The whole blog angle was fun too, although a bit over the top?
So all in all I'd say this is worth a read, with the caveat that it has a few realism issues. It's also, again, not exactly what I was expecting. I went back to read the synopsis and it's pretty accurate, so it may just have been an issue with my expectations, but it just didn't flow for me quite as easily as some of these kinds of books do. I thought Kay turned on her friends awfully quickly as well, at times, and that again affected my enjoyment. But otherwise this has a lot to recommend it, and I think anyone who enjoys a YA murder mystery should give it a look.
I have a few additional thoughts. Kay and her likability were kind of fascinating to me, I'd love to know how other readers react to her and her choices. Several of her choices were problematic for me, not least the ease with which she turned on her friends, especially Tricia and Tai. On the one hand I truly believe she felt like she had no choice, but it was so sudden. And the realism issue with Tricia and how fast she was expelled from the school. It all happened in more or less a day? Also when you have multiple murders, why is the school still open? I can see it still operating perhaps after Jessica's death, but when Maddy is found dead in a tub on school grounds, just days after the first murder, I kinda think school might have closed for a while?
The relationship between Kay and Brie is obviously a central part of the book, and one thing I liked was the way the author had me questioning everyone at one point or other. There were times when I thought Brie was the culprit, or Nola, and just about everyone else!
The scavenger hunt angle played a bigger role than I thought it might, although it's clearly there in the synopsis so again that may just be me. I think I was just expecting a different story- maybe looking for the clique elements to play a bigger role? Kay made enemies of her friends so quickly that she became a pariah very early on, so rather than the clique dynamics I was expecting, this played out more as a murder mystery. Still, I enjoyed it, and some of the twists were a lot of fun.