Devin Rhodes Is Dead
Devin Rhodes is dead. It's my fault.
High school freshman Cass is conflicted about her love/hate relationship with her best friend, Devin, and about her death. How did Devin’s body end up at the bottom of Woodacre Ravine? Was Cass really responsible? Is concealing the truth haunting Cass or is it the ghost-like spirit of her dead friend?
Devin is looking forward to Sophomore year and being in “real high school.” Cass liked ninth grade and being separate from the upper classmen and all the things that come with “real high school.” Cass wonders if she and Devin have much in common any more and whether they are still best friends. Feelings of jealousy, wanting to be independent, and the urge to push boundaries drive a wedge between the two friends. After Devin’s death, Cass feels responsible. She knows the truth—or she thinks she does—and holding it back from Devin’s mother, from the police, from herself, is creating terrible anxiety for her. And it doesn’t help that she thinks Devin is haunting her.
Told in alternating before-and-after chapters, Cass details life leading up to the mysterious events that led to Devin’s “wrongful death.” The turbulent adolescent changes that challenge Cass and Devin’s friendship will seem familiar and real to middle-grade and young-adult readers. The mystery about what happened to Devin and if she is really reaching out from beyond the grave will have readers on the edge of their seats.
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Author & Illustrator Bios:Jennifer Wolf Kam, author
Jennifer Wolf Kam began writing stories as soon as she could hold a crayon. Today she holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Devin Rhodes Is Dead is her first novel and the winner of the National Association of Elementary School Principals National Children’s Book of the Year Award. Jennifer lives in a suburb of New York City.
Read more about Jennifer.
Awards & Honors:
- Winner of the NAESP Chapter Book Competition
- Nominee, VOYA’s Top Shelf: Fiction for Middle School Readers 2015
Convinced she is responsible for her best friend's death, Cass feels haunted by Devin's ghost even as she tries to hide her guilt.
Cass gradually reveals the actual events in chapters that alternate between "after" and "before." Devin is not the most likable of creatures though infinitely prettier than her more "ample" friend and completely boy-obsessed. Fifteen-year-old Cass recalls various humiliations at Devin's hands as well as her increasing isolation from other friends as the result of Devin's machinations. As the truth of the killing finally emerges, first-time novelist Kam keeps atmosphere, suspense and characters realistically entwined. The language has a somewhat old-fashioned flavor, and although readers are soon likely to suspect that Cass is a rather unreliable narrator, Cass' supernatural experience and revelation of events unfold smoothly. The well-developed cast of characters provides the needed red herrings in classic mystery fashion. Ideal for middle school readers who are on the cusp of discovering their romantic selves, Devin's reckless sexualized encounters with the opposite sex contrast well with Cass' careful exploration of her own interest in a boy who actually sees her and finds her attractive. The charm necklaces the two girls purchase to epitomize their best friend status thread symbolically through the narrative, keeping the focus on their relationship.
A surprisingly deft mystery for early teens.
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Ages: 12 and up
Page count: 240
5 1⁄2 x 8 1⁄4