There are a few key points to make about this book. First is that it is at times truly depressing. From the summary, I was expecting that Autumn would be upset over her sister's death and determined to solve the mystery, however I didn't imagine that the book would start off from the time her sister dies. The beginning is chillingly and devastatingly emotional and you follow Autumn through her grief as well as the mystery. Second, Autumn is smart, strong, and independent. I honestly really liked her character, and the relationships she has with her cousin and her dad. I also greatly enjoyed her friendship with Caedon and how it progressed slowly and naturally. I adored Caedon and was sad to see his part in the climax of the story. Lastly, the writing itself is pretty good. It's mostly consistent and while I found some of the elements of the mystery factor a little implausible (i.e. cops aren't that incompetent), it was largely a powerful book about grief and healing written very realistically. I didn't like the climax at all, because I don't think Autumn should have handled it herself or in that fashion nor was I particularly surprised. However, I did appreciate the time it took for all the loose ends to come together in the end. If you're looking for a book about growing up and the bonds of family, and how they're tested in hard times, this is a very good and emotional read. The mystery is also pretty well written, keeping you on your toes until the end. Don't miss out! **I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.**
An Autumn Covarrubias Mystery, 1
"Debut author Bradley’s engrossing, emotionally gripping young-adult mystery/suspense novel explores the effect of a murder on a victim’s family...A heartbreaking, impeccably plotted mystery."—Kirkus Reviews
Sixteen year old math whiz, Autumn, spends her days reading about serial killers and dreaming of becoming an FBI Profiler. She never dreams her first case will be so personal. Her world is shattered when she comes home from school and discovers her murdered sister’s body on the living room floor. When the initial evidence points to a burglary gone wrong, Autumn challenges the police’s theory because of the personal nature of the crime. Thinking that finding the killer will bring her family back together, she conducts her own investigation using her affinity for math and forensics, but her plan backfires and her obsession with the case further splinters her family.
When her investigation reveals the killer is someone she knows, Autumn offers herself up as bait and sets a dangerous trap to unmask his true nature and to obtain a confession for her sister’s murder.
14+ for brief violence
“Autumn, yesterday you had told us that when you arrived home the front door was open. Is that correct?”
I leaned in toward the voice recorder on the table and said, “Yes.”
“Are you positive about that? We interviewed some of the neighbors, and none of them saw an open front door at your house?” No doubt Mrs. Jimenez had told them that. Now that she was retired, she had nothing better to do than watch her neighbors. I wondered if she had mentioned seeing anything to Detective Kasanoff. Maybe she saw something unusual that day, a stranger in the neighborhood, a suspicious car, anything.
“The door looked closed, but when I touched my key to the lock, it opened.”
“Do you know who was the last person to leave the house that day?” I looked over at my parents. Mami had her head buried in her hands. She shouldn’t be here, hearing about all of this. Papi had his arm around her and gave me an encouraging smile.
“What time did you leave that morning?”
“About 8:00 a.m.”
“Did you leave through the front door?” I didn’t like where this was going.
“Yes, and I locked it behind me,” I offered before he had a chance to ask the question.
“How can you be sure? Look, I know how it is. It’s easy to get on autopilot in the morning. You do the same thing every morning, you get into a routine.”
I looked him straight in the eye and said, “I don’t forget things, Detective. I know I locked the door that morning.” He studied me for a moment and flipped through his papers.
“That’s right. Here it is. You’re some kind of math genius. You almost made the US Math Olympiad Team last year.” I wanted to reach across the table and strangle him. Someone had butchered my sister in my own living room, and he was reading up on how I’d choked on a freaking geometry question during last year’s Math Olympiad final round and failed to make the team?
“I’m gifted, Detective. I’m not smart enough to be a genius.” He broke into a smile. The first I’d ever seen from him.
“Is there really a difference?”
“Yes, about five IQ points.” He wrote something down.
“Let’s move on. You said you had come home because you’d left your math questions on the kitchen table that morning. Is that correct?”
He lifted the folder up and produced some papers that were protected in a plastic bag. He placed them in front of me. “Are these the questions you were referring to?”
I looked at my parents, and both of them had their eyes glued to the plastic bag in front of me.
Without touching the bag, I looked at the front page and saw the first question. It was the Bernoulli equation question that Celeste had asked me that morning over breakfast.
“Yes, those are the ones.”
“Care to know where we found them?” What did he mean? I’d left them on the kitchen table when I went to brush my teeth after breakfast.
“On the kitchen table?” I asked, trying not to sound sarcastic.
“No. In your backpack. The backpack we found at the scene yesterday.” He looked over at my parents this time. My eyes grew wide, and my mouth fell open.
“Mr. or Mrs. Covarrubias, did either of you put these math papers back into Autumn’s backpack after breakfast?” Papi left for the bakery every morning at 5:30 a.m. so he wasn’t even home. Mami had left right after Celeste and I had eaten because she had a dentist appointment. Maybe Mami’d seen the papers and stuck them in my backpack. Celeste had left about ten minutes before me. Her boyfriend Voss had swung by to pick her up. He did that every day.
“Mami, did you put the papers in my backpack?” Her eyes were swollen, and I swear she was two seconds away from passing out. Her gaze wandered around the room until it fell on me. She shook her head. My heart sank.
“Then it had to be Celeste. She must have put them in there.”
“Her fingerprints weren’t found on the papers.” How was that possible? The oils from her hands would have been transferred onto the paper if she’d stuck them in my backpack. It couldn’t have been her then. That left no one, and I had no answer. That wasn’t good.
“Autumn, look, I’m going to be honest with you. There are some things that just don’t add up here. We have witnesses that say you and your sister were arguing at school that morning and that she looked very upset. Care to explain what that was all about?”
I could feel the cell doors closing in around me. This was a witch hunt, and I was about to be burned at the stake.
My parents were staring at me, begging me with their eyes to explain what was going on. The question mark stabbed my heart. They knew that Celeste and I hardly ever fought. The last time had to have been when I’d accidentally given her a black eye when I was five and was trying to learn to hit a baseball.
I looked at the detective and said the only thing I knew to say. “Detective Kasanoff, I want a lawyer.”
Autumn's world is destroyed when she goes home one afternoon and finds her sister dead. Things turn out for the worse when she becomes the main suspect in the case, and even her parents doubt her innocence. Things at school aren't much better...well, except for Caedon Keene, who has assigned himself her protector. Unraveled by S.X. Bradley is a fast-paced mystery with incredible twists and turns that will leave you on the edge of your seat. Autumn is a very strong and determined girl. She's gifted and has mad mathematical skills, and I loved how these were incorporated into the story--like her calculating the force of a roundhouse kick, or estimating the height of a suspect. Autumn tries to deal with her sister's death as best as she can while everyone in her family just falls apart. All Autumn wants is to find her sister's murder and return to some semblance of normalcy, but this is extremely difficult as every time she uncovers something new it means reliving the pain all over again. Luckily, Autumn can rely on other people like her cousin Eduardo, her kung fu Sifu, Caedon, and her math geek classmates. Even in the midst of a tragedy there is a bit of romance. Caedon Keene has the whole `cute boy next door' thing going on for him, and that he wants to help Autumn through this dark time just makes him all the more sweet and adorable. He actually understands what she's going through with the loss of someone so close, and does his best to be there for her. Though Autumn likes him a lot, her own investigation leads her to suspect him. And what comes after literally broke my heart in two. The murder investigation kept my eyes glued to the page. Though at one point I grew exasperated because one point was being so obviously ignored, but then right after, the point is cleared and I was like "yeah, calm down, she knows what she's doing." LOL There were also a couple of `holy crap' moments that had my heard pounding and my brain exploding. It was awesome. After this, I'm definitely interested in reading more YA Mysteries.