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Reality Check

Review

Reality Check

Peter Abrahams established his reputation as a skillful writer of mystery novels for adults, gaining popularity and critical acclaim for his realistic, multifaceted mysteries that often feature unusual characters. A few years back, he widened his scope by starting the award-winning series of Echo Falls mysteries for younger readers, starring a 13-year-old soccer-playing aspiring actress and amateur sleuth. Now, he bridges the gap between his dedicated audiences with REALITY CHECK, a young adult mystery that combines the intensity of football, the struggles of growing up and the fear of losing a loved one.

Cody Laredo is finishing his sophomore year of high school on top of the world. He has passed all his classes, which means he’ll be able to QB the varsity football team in the fall. And he’s looking forward to a long, lazy summer, working at his dad’s landscaping business and spending all his spare time with his girlfriend, Clea Weston, the smartest, most beautiful girl in school. When Clea’s wealthy father abruptly whisks her away to the other side of the world for the summer, however, Cody starts to rethink his luck. Things go from bad to worse when Clea unwillingly transfers to an elite private school in Vermont for her junior year --- worlds away from Cody’s working-class background. And when Cody suffers a torn ACL following a hard hit in a fall football game, he feels like the whole world has been yanked out from under his feet.

Cody had been counting on his football talent --- it was his ticket to a Division I football scholarship, to a future away from his small Colorado town, to a life with Clea. But when he’s no longer Cody the quarterback, who is Cody, exactly? All his life he’s been told he has football smarts, not book smarts, a comment that seems to become a self-fulfilling prophecy when the combination of popping pain pills, missing Clea and generally giving up on himself prompts Cody to drop out of school and take a dead-end job.

Cody has just about given up on life when he suddenly finds a new mission. Clea has abruptly disappeared from her Vermont boarding school. The police seem to be flummoxed, and Cody holds a key clue --- a letter she wrote to him the day she disappeared. Cody sets off on a road trip to a world of privilege, wealth and secrets, a world he doesn’t understand but soon finds himself investigating. He doesn’t know who, if anyone, he can trust --- but he has to learn to trust himself again if he’s going to have any chance of finding Clea.

REALITY CHECK is a tight, smart mystery, one with plenty of twists and unexpected turns that will keep readers turning the pages. Just as compelling as the mystery plot, however, is the story of Cody’s journey to find himself, to discover his talents, to believe that he has worth somewhere other than on the football field. Abrahams also cleverly ties in plot points that could have been ripped from recent headlines, giving the mystery added currency and urgency. If the novel has a fault, it’s that the story’s conclusion feels slightly rushed, a little abrupt, so readers will probably be clamoring for more stories starring Cody and featuring the seemingly star-crossed lovers from different sides of the tracks.

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Reviewed by Norah Piehl on October 18, 2011

Reality Check
by Peter Abrahams

  • Publication Date: April 28, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen
  • ISBN-10: 0061227668
  • ISBN-13: 9780061227660