Recommendation Tuesday: Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly
Recommendation Tuesday started as a joke and is now an official thing. Basically, this is my way of making Tuesday a little more awesome. If you've got a book to recommend on this or any Tuesday, tweet me at @SarahSMoon or tag me on Instagram @sarahbethmoon and I'll help spread the word.
Stephanie Tromly’s first novel, Trouble is a Friend of Mine, packs clever dialog, great characters and a complex mystery into a quick paced and excellent read.
Zoe Webster narrates her experiences of going from a nuclear family without financial problems to living on a tight budget in a crappy small town with her mother. Early in the novel, Zoe depicts her mother as shallow and afraid of facing the reality of her new life. A weak mother and overbearing father increases Zoe’s feelings of being abandoned, uprooted, alone and adrift. She isn’t impressed with her new town or the social cliques that abound in the high school.
I went from living in an almost-good part of Brooklyn to my parents divorcing and Mom and me moving to River Heights, a small city in the armpit of upstate New York. Trust me, it’s an even bigger lifestyle demotion than it sounds like.
Zoe says she’s a normal sixteen-year-old spending half of her time worrying about her future and who she’s supposed to be, and the other half reading about makeup, diets and other ways to mask who she really is.
But, Zoe’s not a typical teen, nor is her new friend in River Heights, Philip Digby (just Digby to his friends), the Wallace to Zoe's Veronica Mars. Putting them together means there’s trouble, fun, excitement and whodunits.
Being friends with you’s more stressful and expensive than getting mugged,” I said. Which happened to me by the way, so I know what I’m talking about”.
“Screwdriver. Hey you know what’s funny? I’m getting more screwed hanging out with you than when I was getting mugged by a guy who had an actual screwdriver.”
Narrated from Zoe’s perspective, the plot becomes secondary to the fabulous development of the characters. Far from flat or predictable, they’re rounded and human. Descriptions of her new school’s teachers made me smile and frankly wish at least one of them had been one of my teachers. The art teacher played Nirvana during class while describing peyote-fueled painting sessions in the desert. The government teacher claimed that his part-Mohegan grandma stored scalps of French soldiers in her attic. [Note from Sarah: I suspect Sandra was this sort of teacher when she taught high school!]
Zoe, Digby and friends attend a school dance that is a front for delving into solving whodunit. When they sneak out, they find themselves wondering if they’ve accidentally killed their chauffeur. He’s lying facedown behind the open door that had slammed into him.
“Is he dead?” Bill asked.
“If he’s dead, can we go back to the dance” Sloan said.
“Oh no! Does that mean the hijinks are cancelled?” Filix said.
Zoe doesn’t make value judgments as the tale unfolds. She leaves that to you.
Sloan, the school’s mean girl, could have been left as nothing more than a stereotype. Sloan lives in a mansion, but Zoe discovers that not all is as perfect as the impectible facade would lead her to believe. Sloan’s mother is cold and beautiful. But, Sloan’s nanny--who has cared for her from birth--brings depth to Sloan’s character.
The plot alone will keep you reading, but the characterizations will leave you longing for a sequel. Humor, excellent storytelling and clever scenes make this a fine book. Read it! You won’t be disappointed.