Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
My biggest problem with this book is the blurb. After reading that, I was expecting a high stakes mystery with a side of (probably heart wrenching (it’s John Green)) romance. It was not. The romance and mystery were entirely secondary to Aza’s inner thought and the ‘ever tightening spiral’. Now, don’t get me wrong I loved the portrayal of mental illness, but I didn’t love the weak attempt at mystery.
The novel starts with the disappearance of Russel Pickett and the announcement of the reward for finding him. Aza is an old friend of his son, Davis, so she and Daisy decide to pay him a visit and see if they can find any clues but they do rekindle the friendship between Aza and Davis.
Here’s some spoilers: the mystery takes a back seat to the relationship of Aza/Davis and Aza/Daisy and Aza’s worsening mental state. But it never completely goes away, there’s one clue that keeps it alive throughout the novel: “the jogger’s mouth” which is written in the notes on Mr. Pickett’s phone. The gang goes to a secret underground art gallery and Aza has the realization that they are in the “jogger’s mouth” and therefore the dead body of Mr. Pickett is probably there. This realization is set up as the climatic moment for the novel, but feels more like an accident. Aza didn’t really figure it out until the answer slapped her in the face. It left me with a lot of questions which I don’t want to be left with as at the end of a mystery novel. How did Mr. Pickett know that he was going to be in the jogger’s mouth? Why was he there? Was the clue meant for his sons to figure out somehow? Otherwise, why bother being cryptic? The best thing about mysteries is the catharsis of all your question being answered and being abled to look back and see all the places where you could have pieced it together. There was no opportunity to figure it out here, unless you have a profound knowledge of the (possibly fictional) geography of Indianapolis.
The whole mystery felt superfluous to the real story besides reason for the inciting incident of Aza’s relationship with Davis.
The other aspect I didn’t like was Davis’s blog. His entries were all overly poetic and pedantic and didn’t really give me much insight into his character as a whole.
I really liked the portrayal of Aza’s OCD and thought spirals and the strain on her other relationships (Daisy, Davis, and her Mom) because of her mental illness. I found this plot much more compelling and relatable than the mystery since most people don’t have a missing billionaire to find in their spare time. Aza was a truly unique narrator and a well developed character.
In short, I really liked it, I just wish the mystery didn’t undermine the narration.
What did you think of the mystery? What did you think of the book? How does it hold up against the other John Green books?