The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow & Liz Lawson
Disclaimer: There are no spoilers in this review.
In the first few pages, I thought I knew what this book was going to be; a ‘One of Us is Lying’ inspired Young Adult novel, set in a cliched American high school with labelled groups (‘Mains’ and ‘Zoners’) and unsuspecting teenagers solving a murder in their small town. I was wrong.
Well, I was partially right. It is about two American teenagers solving a murder mystery, but it is so much more unique and creative than that. Most notably, the authors Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson have utilised multiple textual formats to reveal the story. This book comprises recorded interviews, forum boards, text chains, epigraphs, and transcribed news pieces, all set to a dual perspective narrative of the two protagonists.
Alice and Iris are two girls from different worlds whose involvement in each other’s lives is at first unintentional. Throughout the novel, their shared traumatic experiences and passion for justice draws them together slowly and deeply. We end up rooting for this strong female duo both individually and as a team, especially in the face of incessant opposition.
One of my favourite things about this novel is that it encourages critical thinking, individual judgement, and the questioning of authority. Where teenage girls are so often patronized and ignored, Alice and Iris blaze a trail of glory in not giving in to the pressure to be silent. They question every fact scrupulously; whether that means probing the integrity of those in charge, or even when it comes down to questioning each other. Admittedly, some of their fact-finding methods aren’t the most ethical, but their determination and intentions are in the right place (and it makes for some dramatic reading!).
The intricate murder mystery plotline itself is carefully woven and equally cleverly unravelled. The clues are exposed in surprising yet believable ways, rendering this novel a complete page-turner – the fact that I read all four-hundred pages in one sitting is a testament to that. Alongside this, we are introduced to sub-plots which reveal the characters’ individual backgrounds and motivations, which are threaded throughout the narrative.
Overall, I recommend this YA novel to murder-mystery experts and amateurs alike. It’s unique enough to be refreshing and entertaining to those who have read plenty in this genre, but is also captivating and easy enough to follow along with for those who are new.