YOU KILLED WESLEY PAYNE By Sean Beaudoin [Review]

You Killed Wesley Payne

Have you ever read a book that you are completely on the fence about? Loving one minute and really not loving the next? The kind of book that you keep reading, enjoying some of the characters, or the language, or the story, but at the same time half-hating yourself for plowing on? That is my affair with YOU KILLED WESLEY PAYNE by Sean Beaudoin.

The book is written as a hard-boiled detective novel. Private Investigator Dalton Rev must solve the mysterious and gruesome death of Wesley Payne, left dead, duct taped and hanging upside down from the goal post on a high school football field. All of that would be fine and dandy and even fit into the happy world of Chandler and Parker, but Dalton Rev is a high schooler himself and has set out to solve the mystery in a world chock full of high school cliques and noir cliché. As Rev works to solve the murder he deals with the ruling factions, the lesser groups and even finds the beautiful girl.

It works, and it doesn’t.

That’s my problem. You Killed Wesley Payne feels so aware of being noir, or a hard-boiled detective novel that sometimes the wit is forced and sometimes it just flows along nicely. The characters are often one-dimensional, but I think that’s what Beaudoin was going for, making them more the clique and the idea of what they are rather than people themselves. The language is, at times, nearly painful in its awareness of its own hipness. Really, it’s such a mixed bag that even now I am not sure if I liked it or I didn’t.

Beaudoin’s main character is likable, and his ruminations and rules are amusing. One or two of the secondary characters are memorable, although not the kind that I wonder how they fare long after the book has ended. The various cliques are amusing and I still snigger at the “Plaths” and the clique flow chart that opens the book. Still…

I’m just not sure. Maybe it’s just that I am too old to really appreciate how “fresh” the book is, maybe I am a little jaded. Maybe I’ve just read so much of the actual genre that this one caught between a satire and a detective novel lost something of its appeal. I am sure that the age group it is written for will enjoy it, and there’s no complaint in the writing itself. I am just not overwhelmed. There were times I cringed, times I really liked it and once or twice I loved it. You Killed Wesley Payne is certainly different from the usual fare and worth a look for the flow chart and the glossary alone.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | Pages: 368 | Source: Publisher | Buy on Amazon

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