Sixteen-year-old Devon Mackintosh has always felt like an outsider at Keaton, the prestigious California boarding school perched above the Pacific. As long as she's not fitting in, Devon figures she might as well pad her application to Stanford's psych program. So junior year, she decides to become a peer counselor, a de facto therapist for students in crisis. At first, it seems like it will be an easy fly-on-the-wall gig, but her expectations are turned upside down when Jason Hutchins (a.k.a. "Hutch"), one of the Keaton's most popular students, commits suicide.
Devon dives into her new role providing support for Hutch's friends, but she's haunted by her own attachment to him. The two shared an extraordinary night during their first week freshman year; it was the only time at Keaton when she felt like someone else really understood her. As the secrets and confessions pile up in her sessions, Devon comes to a startling conclusion: Hutch couldn't have taken his own life. Bound by her oath of confidentiality - and tortured by her unrequited love - Devon embarks on a solitary mission to get to the bottom of Hutch's death...and the stakes are higher than she ever could have imagined.
VM was one of my fav shows and it set off an obsession I had a few years back with teen detective literature and YA mysteries. Unfortunately, I never found anything particularly good, let alone anything reaching VM brilliance.
Escape Theory wasn't a hard core mystery but the premise, set-up and style were really well crafted. Devon doesn't believe all around good guy Hutch killed himself by Oxy OD at their scenic boarding academy. She begins to investigate and put pieces together with the help of her role as peer counselor to those closest to Hutch - wealthy and popular kids she is not at all in with.
Clues and new pieces on information are doled out at a steady pace and I stayed interested. The mystery wasn't too hard to solve and you'll probably figure it out before the book, but it never gets boring or too obvious. The author manages to inject a seedy but not melodramatic underworld into the boarding school and while it never got quite as noir or dark as VM it never got clichéd
The real brilliance to this story are the characters. They are incredibly well drawn and felt very real. The relationships are authentic and character turns and depths are organic and sincere. It lets the teens be teens (not adult caricatures) while also not relying on standard high school clichés (jocks, nerds, cool, uncool).
At the same time though there is an ever present but subtle rich/poor divide particularly between Devon, a scholarship student, and the wealthy inner circle. The way this way played really reminded me of VM with the way it gave the school community texture that you always sensed could become serious tension with the right catalyst.
While I would have like Escape Theory to go a little more in depth, be a little be more mysterious and have a bigger bang to the conclusion/revelation Escape Theory was still a fantastic YA mystery and overall great book.
I highly recommend it and can't wait for more in the series. I will definitely be reading them!