Happy Saturday, guys!
Today, I'm reviewing the teenaged thriller The Fixer, by acclaimed author Jennifer Lynn Barnes.
Barnes paints a tense, behind-the scenes look at the muddied and complex waters of DC politics, and at the attempts of one girl to get to the bottom of a mystery that may go all the way to the very top.
This is a bite-your-nails thriller that is perfect for summer reading, and needs to make it on your TBR-lists immediately!
Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: July 7th 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Format read: ARC via publisher
Sixteeen-year-old Tess is thrown into the midst of an unexpected conspiracy after she moves to DC, and it's one that may very well change Tess, her family and friends' understanding of their own lives and politics forever.
Sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick has spent her entire life on her grandfather's ranch. But when her estranged sister Ivy uproots her to D.C., Tess is thrown into a world that revolves around politics and power. She also starts at Hardwicke Academy, the D.C. school for the children of the rich and powerful, where she unwittingly becomes a fixer for the high school set, fixing teens' problems the way her sister fixes their parents' problems.
And when a conspiracy surfaces that involves the family member of one of Tess's classmates, love triangles and unbelievable family secrets come to light and life gets even more interesting—and complicated—for Tess.
Perfect for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Heist Society, readers will be clamoring for this compelling teen drama with a political twist.
Barnes introduces us to sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick, who has spent most of her life living on a Montana ranch with her now-ailing grandfather. But when estranged sister Ivy sweeps back into Tess's life, and takes Tess back to DC with her, Tess quickly learns that everything she assumed about her sister's life was far from the truth. Both Ivy and the city have secrets to hide, and as Tess works to adjust to her new school, she also ends up getting caught up in a conspiracy that may go to the very top of the DC political world.
Barnes has proven time and again that she's unsurprassed in her ability to write thrilling, character-driven novels, and The Fixer is no different. When readers are first introduced to Tess, we quickly learn that her life has been a quiet one; revolving around her grandfather's ranch and their solitary together.
But instead of faltering once she moves to DC, Tess quickly adapts to the legacy that her sister has already created through her job as a "fixer", or someone who makes political problems disappear. Much like her sister, Tess is adept at observing and solving obstacles, and has a natural empathy and deductive skills that helps her cut immediately to the heart of a problem.
Barnes does a great job of showing how despite Tess's active resentment for her sister's abandonment of her in early years, they're actually very similar in personality. It's a nice nod to the idea that family will often share instinctive traits - which takes on a newer meaning as the book progresses - but also a strong reminder that despite Tess's instinctive need to build up her sister as a villain, Ivy's world is a large-scale example of what Tess experiences on a smaller level at Hardwicke Academy. Both sisters have their supporters - with Tess's new friends Asher and Vivvie, being alternating entertaining and making waves of their own - and both have their enemies.
And it's because of this, that it's hardly surprising when Tess becomes embroiled in a political conspiracy that has the power to rock DC to the core. Barnes creates multiple layers to the conspiarcy, pulling out the type of literary punches that had me putting down the book and going "OH NO SHE DIDN'T." I especially appreciated the fact that Barnes was not afraid to show the truly seedy side of scandal, and its cumulative and long-lasting impact on her diverse cast of characters.
The one minor quibble that readers may have with Barnes's premise, is the jilted relationship between the sisters. Considering the apparent fame that Ivy has achieved in the District and beyond, it seems illogical that Tess would have absolutely no idea what her sister does for living - especially as Tess appears to be fairly well-read when it comes to the political world.
On a related note, there's a also bit of a plot twist that happens between the sisters in the latter half of the novel, which I predicted fairly early on. It's not entirely surprisingly, but it definitely adds a solid level of deapth and poginancy to Tess's emotional journey, eventually bringing it full circle.
Jennifer Lynn Barnes has written an absorbing thriller that isn't afraid to show the seedy underbelly of the political process, and what political power brokers will do to get ahead in a minefield ridden world. But more importantly, The Fixer is also a fantastic study on how micro-environments - in this case, Hardwicke School - are representative of the larger world, and how one girl can naturally find her place.
Tess is the perfect heroine for the summer, and should absolutely make it on everyone's reading lists, ASAP. I highly, highly recommend this book, full stop.
About the author:
JENNIFER LYNN BARNES has written several acclaimed young adult novels, including The Naturals and the Raised by Wolves series. She has advanced degrees in psychology, psychiatry, and cognitive science. She received her PhD from Yale University and is now a professor in psychology. Visit her online at www.jenniferlynnbarnes.com and on Twitter at @jenlynnbarnes.