Peter Abrahams is the author of suspense novels for adults and mysteries for middle grade readers. And now, mysteries for teens, as well, with the publication of Reality Check earlier this year.
High school classes are just a means to an end for Cody. He needs to pass his classes to play football, and said classes aren’t worth the effort of trying to get good grades when he finds it hard to comprehend much of what is being taught. Staying eligible is all that matters, especially now that he is a junior. This season is when Cody can really catch the attention of college football coaches and land some scholarship offers.
After a cheap shot at the end of a game wrecks his knee and ends his football season, Cody drops out of school and starts working full-time. One morning, the local newspaper’s headline catches his attention: “Local Girl Missing.” Taking a closer look at the article, Cody realizes the missing girl is his ex-girlfriend, Clea.
Clea’s rich father sent her to a boarding school in Vermont, and now she has disappeared from her new school. The next morning, Cody receives a letter in the mail. Clea sent it before she disappeared, and there’s something about the letter that bothers Cody. Is he reading too much into the letter, or is it really a clue? In order to learn more, and determined to help find Clea, Cody decides to go to Vermont himself.
The mystery element of Reality Check does take a while to develop, but in the meantime, Abrahams fleshes out Cody, making him sympathetic and giving readers a great deal of insight into his character. I particularly liked how Cody doesn’t think of himself as a smart guy. Unlike many of the sleuths in children’s and YA mysteries, who are obviously bright and/or overachievers, Cody is an average guy—below average, academically—who gets involved in the investigation because of how much he cares for Clea. And where Cody’s poor grades and decision to drop out are concerned, the tone of the narrator is pretty matter-of-fact; they’re not presented as negatives or something to be ashamed of, just as part of who Cody is. (Okay, and the story wouldn’t work if Cody was in school, because then he couldn’t go to Vermont in the middle of a semester.) Once the mystery surrounding Clea’s disappearance emerges, it is suitably suspenseful and the motivations of the main players’ plausible. Although the ending is disappointingly abrupt, considering the relatively long buildup, overall, Reality Check is an enjoyable, easy read.
From the sound of this article by Sarah Weinman, we can expect to see more YA mysteries from Abrahams. I know I'm not the only one who thinks too few YA mysteries are published, and especially after Reality Check, I'm looking forward to Abrahams' next offering for teens.