So here's a book about a high school girl with a broken family and a troubled past, who helps fix other people's problems. It might sound a lot like Veronica Mars, except Atlanta Burns has less sass, more shotgun.
Atlanta's life is not excessively comfortable, and it doesn't help that when she tries to help out, everything just gets worse. Her friends get beat up. Or killed. Which sucks. Atlanta has the narrative voice of a hard-boiled noir detective, which is a well-used trope, and it works. I can hear her southern twang clearly in my head, from the very first page. Her somewhat reluctantly acquired friends accompany her through the rural community's white power millieu, looking to find out who's been going after gay, and hispanic, children. Why the cops aren't doing anything about it. Where all the dogs have been disappearing. And where can she get some more of those pills to keep from sleeping? Sleep means revisiting that whole troubled past thing, which Atlanta isn't much interested in.
Atlanta goes through a series of bad situations in bad places; enough to give kinda wussy readers a hard time. I don't mean because of a lot of gore or excessive violence or similar - but you know that thing that movies often do? Those scenes where tension is just building and you know something is about to go wrong but the scene just seems to last forever while you're in full expectation-mode? Yeah. Books are allowed to do that too, obviously. I hate it. Sure, exciting reading, but, uh, I guess I'm saying it's too much excitement for me. But you can remind me that I voluntarily read gory horror without complaining, so what this paragraph is really about is simply that the author, Chuck Wendig, is quite capable of pushing many heartbeat-hastening buttons. (You should also be aware of Wendig's considerable internet presence, which is full of profanity and magnificent writing advice. Look it up.)
And that's a good thing. Of course.
(Also, look at the cover art. It's gorgeous and it absolutely matches the mood.)
I hope there'll be more Atlanta Burns stories. And that she gets a lot of fans who'd like to make her grilled cheese sandwiches. I totally would.
Who should read this? Anyone looking for fast-paced high school noir with a kick-ass girl protagonist. Or, you know, someone just looking for one of those features who'll be happy to take the other as an educational bonus.
And who shouldn't? Atlanta Burns isn't given to lengthy introspection and doesn't particularly feel like bonding closely with anyone, so if you want a heroine who does those things, you'll find better matches elsewhere. Oh, and if animal cruelty is an absolute deal breaker or trigger or whatever the appropriate tag is, for you. (It is pretty much the most problematic thing for me to read about when my brain is sore, and I had to save parts of this book for daytime-with-coffee-brain and keep it away from bedtime-brain.)