Kay Donovan’s past is behind her as she’s reinvented herself at her new private school as a star soccer player and one of the popular girls. At least, that’s until a girl’s body is found in the lake, and her carefully constructed life begins to topple when Kay begins to get involved, both as a murder suspect and as someone being blackmailed.
She’s left with a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect. But at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened, and if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive.
People Like Us was a well-written thriller, but one that didn’t really click with me.
I think a lot of people will and have enjoyed this. It’s very well written for a debut, and I found the mystery to be intriguing and thoroughly interesting.
Although I made a guess (which was right!) about who the killer was, it was completely based off of picking a random character, not from mystery intuition (or maybe that is what mystery intuition actually is…) and so I think Mele definitely crafted something that mystery lovers will enjoy, and have fun reading, even though you might expect who the murderer is.
I was definitely on my toes throughout the novel, especially because I wasn’t sure with my guess and was kept entertained with the different murders and creative boarding school type blackmailing.
The boarding school setting was awesome and I loved seeing all the really cool boarding-school type activities (dorms, etc.) plus hw the social structure was at Kay’s private school. If you love boarding school mysteries (i.e. Truly Devious, but as a standalone) then you definitely might want to check this out.
The blackmail is super creative and there are all sorts of cooking styled threats that single out a specific person and contain a lot of double meanings, which was one of my favorite parts. The blackmailing had a lot of fun and appetite-whetting attributes (take notes, kids) and something I definitely wish we got to see more of.
Plus, there’s a bunch of queer characters! It’s a sapphic Mean Girls and I’m LOVING IT. The fxf romances were so refreshing and twisted, so we get all the twist that we’d normally see in a hetero thriller that has romance, but with female characters! Mele definitely doesn’t tone down the manipulations to make way for a fluffy romance, that’s for sure.
The one big problem is that as much as I enjoyed reading about Not Nice™ girls, I didn’t really care about them. It’s an untraditional topic, for sure (a story about the mean girls in school), but it made me feel kind of disconnected from the characters. I couldn’t sympathize with their struggles (They’re rich mean girls who go to a private boarding school. It’s hard to relate) which made me not care as much.
Initially, I was all for it, but eventually I just kind of lost steam for being into this book, perhaps because I stopped reading for like a week at the 30%ish mark and picked it back up again after. I thought the pacing was fine, although it did drag a little bit around the middle (possibly because of the reading break), but definitely sped up towards the end, especially with the police questioning.
Kay goes through a lot of things, especially with the skeletons in her closet putting her on edge, and although I didn’t really sympathize, I couldn’t help but feel like I was the one being interrogated as a potential murder suspect. That can really put someone on edge…
Overall, I think this is a very promising debut from Mele, even though it wasn’t for me based on how I couldn’t relate for the characters. If this sounds like a cool topic and premise to you, though, then I 100% say try it! I’ll be keeping an eye out on what Mele produces next.