The fear by Natasha Preston

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This is chilling and tense!  A teen thriller that scares deeply, with even the awful blizzardy winter weather working to add drama to the plot.

Izzy is one of the few teens in her school and wider community that has not shared on a social media platform her personal fear of the worst way to die.  When two teens in her school are found dead in the manner of their published fear it begins a chain of frightening events that seem to have Izzy set into the role of curious enigma solver, with potential deadly consequences. Is one of her classmates the murderer, or has she cast him in a bad light just because of his grumpy demeanour? Who can be trusted? Why aren’t the police able to stop the serial killer from pursuing more victims? This is a very teen focussed murder mystery, set within the world of school-based activities and teen interests. There are mean girls and jocks, but also there are good parents who have rules and expectations and bad parents that cause distress. And into this ordinary USA school context intrudes a mystery killer with evil intent. The police are involved, but Izzy is portrayed as the ‘one’ with the inside wisdom to solve the mystery. This adds an element of unbelievability – surely the police would have been more active in solving the crime and better able to search their small community! The responses and risks taken by individual teens are also a bit unlikely, but because they do, the tension ramps up higher.

With most of the story written from Izzy’s perspective, we see inside her teen logic and the tension she feels. But there are a number of chapters interspersed through the story that are written from the perspective of ‘Fear’, the character assumed to be the murderer. This technique arcs up the tension for the reader. Although this story does have some significant plausibility holes, teens will still engage with the thriller, overlooking many weaknesses because of the fast pace and the strength of the central character. And right to the very end there is uncertainty, fear and concern for all the characters! Although this isn’t great literature (it is not even great mystery writing), it is readable.

Themes: Thriller, Murder, Social media, Fear, Mystery.

Carolyn Hull