cover image You Killed Wesley Payne

You Killed Wesley Payne

Sean Beaudoin, Little, Brown, $16.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-316-07742-2

Beaudoin offers up a fast-paced mashup of noir homage and high school satire that's often witty, but founders under the weight of its ambition. Dalton Rev models his life on his favorite detective, Lexington Cole, and brings his hard-boiled sensibilities to Salt River High—a place that resembles "school" in only the loosest of senses—where cute Macy Payne has hired him to find out who killed her brother, found hanged on the football goalposts. Rev's wanderings bring him into contact with assorted cliques (helpfully outlined in a guide at the front of the book), which include everyone from poetry-worshipping Plaths to brainy Euclidians as well as Lee Harvies (anarchic, gun-toting snipers). Beaudoin (Fade to Blue) wavers too often between fleshing out his characters and keeping his world off-kilter (a subplot involving Rev getting into Harvard is particularly painful). The resulting concoction is in the surreal vein of recent books like Going Bovine and Andromeda Klein, but never quite meshes the social satire of the cliques with Rev's concerns about his family, and the muddled ending does the story no favors. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)