Jennifer Lynn Barnes writes ridiculously fun books. They're also extremely intelligent and (as far as I can tell, since I am as far removed as being a Washington mover and shaker as the two poles of an ion) really well-researched. I love The Naturals and can't wait for the third book to come out ... and now, what is this? ANOTHER awesome teen thriller for me to devour? NOM NOM NOM. *belches politely*
I don't watch either of the TV shows that the blurb for this book name-checks (Scandal and Veronica Mars (I know for that last one I lose all credibility but I am working on it!)), but I am ... aware of them. Like, I am aware that Kerry Washington is a goddess who is also a lovely person in real life, but drinks a lot of wine on the teevee and, I think, sleeps with the President. I am seriously wondering if Jennifer Lynn Barnes doesn't write for TV or movies--her books have this effortless thriller flow to them that is better (to me, the T.V.-less blogger) than most shows out there.
Tess Kendrick lives on a ranch with her grandpa. She's trying to hide the fact that he's slipping away from her every day. Until her older sister, Ivy, swoops in, pops their grandfather in a nursing home to treat his advancing Alzheimer's and enrolls Tess in an exclusive school in Washington, D.C. Tess has always wished Ivy were more present in her life and feels abandoned by her after the death of their parents, but this is not the kind of change Tess wanted. However, when your sister rolls around D.C. with a driver/bodyguard and is on a first name basis with both the President and the First Lady, you realize that you can't really say no.
In the beginning, Tess really has no idea what Ivy actually does (and really, Barnes never exactly divulges Ivy's true position or exact methods, which makes it ... creepier), but it's clear from her first day at school that being Ivy Kendrick's sister bumps you to the top of the political food chain. Come on, it's D.C. The school's social currency is politics and reputation, not sparkles and football.
The student assigned to show Tess around school on her first day, Vivvie, is bubbly and ... yeah, the opposite of Tess. But she's just so ... nice that she and Tess become friends. Because of her sister's reputation, the whole school assumes that she has some sort of genetic "fixing" acumen. Never mind that Tess doesn't even know what her sister does or why she is on a first name basis with the First Lady (not Michelle Obama, alas) or how she does her job.
Unproven reputation notwithstanding, Tess confronts a cacafuego who has nude pics of a freshman girl on his phone, she threatens to castrate him. Call me a misandrist if you like, but any guy who tries to blackmail a girl with nude pics that were taken while she was passed out drunk deserves to be a castrato. From that moment on, I loved Tess.
But then Vivvie divulges some rather dangerous suspicions about her father, Tess gets catapulted into the big leagues. See, Vivvie's dad is the surgeon general, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (who is the grandfather of one of their classmates, Henry) dies while under his care. Vivvie's overheard furtive phone calls made on disposables, and she's worried. And scared.
As if things couldn't get more complicated, Emilia, the school's ultra-pretty, ultra-smart, ultra-disdainful alpha female, tries to convince Tess to control her twin brother Asher's more ... dangerous impulses. Like climbing to the top of the church steeple and just hanging out. Or hacking cell phones. Wait, Tess asked him to do that last one.
She's immersed in the fetid scum of D.C. politics, whether she likes it or not. Refreshingly, the teens end up telling an adult what they're up to pretty early in the plot. There's none of this "oh, I'll just hide it for the whole book and then solve the crime and no one will be mad at me" nonsense. Ivy, Asher, and Vivvie tell Tess, but then all of their problems get worse. Hmmm.
Going into further detail would completely wreck the plot, so now you have to go get this (begging and borrowing allowed; stealing illegal) to find out what happens.
I also loved that Tess didn't have a romantic relationship going on, although Asher and Henry are both possibilities (I'm Team Asher, if you must know). She made stupid decisions but also had brilliant insights, and she took responsibility for her own mistakes. Tess kicked butt.
So here I am, waiting eagerly for the next in this series and hoping to quell my hunger with the latest installment of Barnes' other series, The Naturals, which should be out in November.