I’ve enjoyed every single Sue Wallman book I’ve read since her debut, Lying About Last Summer. With each new release, she proves herself an absolute master at crafting YA thrillers that are impossible to put down!
Dead Popular follows Kate, the most popular girl and Head Prefect at Pankhurst boarding school. One of her old friends, Sasha, is not returning for the school year after expulsion, and somebody wants revenge. We follow Kate and her form as they throw status symbol parties disrupted by school room pranks with more sinister motives. Everything can be explained away until one girl ends up dead.
Seriously, all you have to do is read the first page to get pulled into the story. I love narratives that begin with something dark, so you’re just anxiously waiting the entire time for things to turn ugly, but you don’t know when it’ll creep up on you. The energy this book has is definitely unnerving in how everything seems normal until the last minute.
I thought Sue Wallman did a great job at capturing the characters of a posh boarding school, their entitlement and preoccupation with beauty. I really understood the group dynamics – who was supposed to end up with who, who we weren’t supposed to like after what happened last summer – it was all developed so well in such a short space of time. And with all that, there still manages to be an intriguing romance plot thread to further complicate the relationships between everyone, from a book that’s under 300 pages. You really can have it all!
Boarding schools are one of my all time favourite book settings, and it was used perfectly to give that sense of isolation from parents…and civilisation. That said, the greater setting of the beach, from the cliffs to the chip shop, was so well conjured too, I could almost smell the salt air as I turned the pages.
The mystery itself I didn’t see coming. Always a good thing with thrillers, right? But of course, looking back at the end, all the seeds were there to make the reveal feel earned. It’s just a testament to the characters and atmosphere that I can be so oblivious to the genre they’re built it!
If you love thrillers, and are looking for the next book that not even ice cream in the blistering heat could tempt you away from, then I strongly recommend adding Dead Popular to your TBR.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*