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The Amateurs


The Amateurs

In THE AMATEURS: Case Not Closed, by Sara Shepard, the author of  the Pretty Little Liars series, a group of local teens band together to solve a mystery left open for five years --- the disappearance and murder of Helena Kelly. The group includes the amateur sleuths Seneca Frazier, Maddox and Madison Wright, Helen’s little sister Aerin Kelly and Brett Grady. After Aerin reaches out for help on the “Case Not Closed” website, a crime-solving forum for amateur sleuths, the teenagers set off to solve the case that not even the FBI could figure out. With a sinister shadow following in their footsteps, the teenagers realize that they are playing a dangerous game, which leads up to an ominous revelation.

For a 300-page novel, there were many characters. With the different families as well as the different people connected to the case, sometimes I couldn’t keep track of who was who. Some of the characters went flat and only played a filler role. Although it is supposed to be a book about amateurs and teenagers, too much of the story was the personal teenage drama (even though most of them are old enough to be college students) that the main characters experienced.

"An easy, light, quick read. This first novel seems to be a part of something much bigger, and I cannot wait to read the next installment in the series."

There were several plot holes and unrealistic coincidences that set the story off from a rather believable plot. Everything fell into place almost too easily and the clues that the characters discovered made it slightly implausible that even the FBI couldn’t crack the case. There is a reason behind this, which I cannot reveal, because it is a spoiler, but it still seems too easy. Some of the subplots and side stories could also be cut down.

As a fan of mystery novels, I believe that the ending and the reveal is one of the most important aspects. THE AMATEURS: Case Not Closed, full of twists and turns, kept my interest up until the very last page, with a plot twist and cliffhanger. I definitely did not realize the truth until it was revealed. Shepard’s writing kept my interest, as well as the unique concept where teenagers and amateurs can come together to solve crime mysteries.

The book was a very entertaining and fun to read. It seems to be told through third person but switches the main point of view between five main characters. However, on certain occasions, the POV lacked true insight with that character and it all seemed like it was the same third-person narrator. I appreciated the diversity of the characters, from personality to breaking some stereotypes, although Maddox does come off as a jock-stereotype no matter what he claims to Seneca.

THE AMATEURS: Case Not Closed by Sara Shepard was an easy, light, quick read. This first novel seems to be a part of something much bigger, and I cannot wait to read the next installment in the series.

Reviewed by Jeremy H., Teen Board Member on November 30, 2017

The Amateurs
by Sara Shepard