Published October 1, 2011.
Danny Lopez is new in town. He made a mistake back home in Las Vegas, and now he has landed at an experimental school in Colorado for “tough cases.” At the Cobalt Charter School, everything is scripted-what the teachers say, what the students reply-and no other speaking is allowed. This supercontrolled environment gives kids a second chance to make something of themselves. But with few freedoms, the students become sitting ducks for a killer determined to “clean up” Colorado Springs. (netgalley.com)
I tried. I didn’t succeed. I found the opening chapter exceptionally disturbing and thankfully the rest of the story didn’t carry on from that POV because I don’t know if I would have been able to get through it. It’s about an unknown boy (not Danny) about to kill and mutilate a cat. Pretty gross. But it’s written succinctly. It roiled up a pretty strong reaction in me. So the writing did it’s job. But that’s where it left me.
After that, it snaps into Danny’s head but it doesn’t stay there. The whole story reads kind of schizophrenic in that it’s kind of limited third but it’s talking in an almost stilted, highly educated voice that is not befitting Danny at all. And then it head-hops something awful. It’s jarring to switch POVs from one sentence to the next. Very few authors can do it and have it flow. McKinty isn’t one of them. It just felt all over the place, I couldn’t get a grip on any of the characters and from what I was seeing, I didn’t like most of them.
Danny’s a bit of a jerk, not bailing out his step-dad simply because he didn’t want to (the thing with the cops was all a misunderstanding, easily solved should Danny have opened his mouth). His step-dad is the token hippy guy with some of the most cliched dialogue I’ve ever come across. Danny’s mom is just as cliched and is barely a presence in the story up to the point where I stopped reading (about 100 pages in). The interaction between these three is something out of a paint-by-numbers lesson on parental dialogue. It was painful at times to read.
Info-dumps are set up through awkward dialogue (everyone’s guilty of this) and there’s far too much name-dropping going on. And then the interjections with the mystery boy and his cat obsession were really weird and didn’t seem to be going where. I get it. It’s funky and mysterious. Get on with it.
Just the whole thing felt forced and it eventually became a burden to read. It got to a point where I was begrudging having to read it. That’s usually a good time to stop. The plot had great potential and the set-up for the school was well-played. It’s definitely a bit of a creepy place. But the overall execution fell short for me. I just felt the writing wasn’t up to snuff and the emphasis was usually in places it didn’t really need to be, and was grossly lacking where it should have been. Maybe the story got more intriguing but I couldn’t tough it out.
Ban Factor: High – Just judging by the beginning of this one and it’s potential cat mutilation, that would be enough to make it highly offensive to baby eyes.