Children's books and book reviews - reading resource for kids, teachers, librarians, parents

Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*All Unquiet Things* by Anna Jarzab- young adult book review  
All Unquiet Things
by Anna Jarzab
Grades 10+ 352 pages Delacorte January 2010 Hardcover    

Carly had it all: money, a handsome boyfriend, a brilliant intellect, and an ever-increasing circle of friends. But she was also impulsive, hurting, and kept dark secrets hidden that could blow the lid off of the everyday life she led at Brighton Day School in prosperous Empire Valley, California. Someone didn’t want the secrets she held revealed and killed her a year previous to the action in All Unquiet Things, Anna Jarzab’s stunning page-turner of a YA debut, during her junior year. Her estranged boyfriend, Nealy, discovers her body by a bridge where they shared some romantic moments.

The novel alternates between the first-person perspectives of Nealy and Audrey. The chapters also switch back and forth in time, from their eighth-grade years to their senior years in the present.

At first, the police believe Nealy might be the one responsible for shooting and killing Carly, but a gun belonging to her cousin Audrey’s father was used to commit the murder, and he was found by the police near where the death took place, passed out drunk behind the wheel of his parked truck. Her half-carat diamond necklace was discovered near the passenger door in the mud. But Audrey doesn’t believe that her father, Enzo, did it, and she enlists the reluctant Nealy’s help to prove her father’s innocence.

Nealy is reluctant because all of the evidence seems to point to Enzo, and he doesn’t want to have to dredge up painful memories. He’s also not on the best of terms with Audrey at the start of the book, believing her to be at least partially responsible for introducing Carly to the wrong sort of crowd - including Adam, the school drug dealer, who eventually became her new boyfriend, leaving Nealy devastated. He receives periodic counseling at the school but doesn’t like to open up about his emotions. As a result, he has a difficult time moving on with his life.

Audrey has obtained the bracelet that Nealy gave to Carly and gives it back to him as a sort of peace offering and to gain his cooperation. After they both go to visit Enzo in jail, and Nealy hears Enzo’s story about the day Carly died, Nealy has enough doubts about Enzo’s guilt that he agrees to help Audrey. Nealy knows that Audrey has Carly’s diary, too, and he hopes he can talk her into showing it to him if he goes along with her plans.

Carly and Audrey are like each other in several ways, especially their temperaments. Carly is the first person Nealy gets to know well at Brighton Day School, and they are both in an independent study curriculum especially designed for the brightest of Brighton’s college-bound students.

Audrey doesn’t start attending Brighton until her sophomore year. Maybe it’s their similarities and Audrey’s often sarcastic attitude that make it hard for Nealy to like her as a friend, as well as liking Carly as his girlfriend.

When Carly’s mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer, she seems to begin turning into a different person. Neither Nealy nor Audrey can find the right words to offer Carly much comfort, or to get her the psychological counseling she needs to deal with her mother’s illness and death.

She starts to be more friendly toward Adam and Cass, Audrey’s boyfriend, and the people they know. Nealy suspects that Carly might be indulging in alcohol and maybe even taking drugs. He doesn’t know how to stop her, though, and worries that if he brings the subject up, he might hasten the breakup he fears is becoming more and more inevitable.

If Enzo isn’t the culprit, Nealy and Audrey are faced with the strong possibility that the person who killed Carly is someone from their school. If so, that person would go at any length to keep certain dark secrets hidden and probably wouldn’t hesitate to kill again if necessary.

In order for them to find the truth, Audrey and Neily will have to be honest not only with each other but themselves as well if they want to get to the bottom of who murdered Carly. Even if it means re-opening old wounds and getting involved with dangerous people, not to mention being more ostracized by the other students at Brighton, Nealy and Audrey have to work together to figure out who the real killer is and free Enzo from prison.

All Unquiet Things is an impressive mystery debut, different from many YA novels that might carry a similar theme involving rich and privileged teens who have access to as much money, drugs, and alcohol that they want. Jarzab digs below the surface of their comfortable lives, exposing dark secrets that the students try to keep hidden.

There are plenty of twists and enough suspense to hold anyone’s interest to the very end. If All Unquiet Things is any indication of how much potential Anna Jarzab has as an author, I’m sure that it’s just the start of a long and promising career. Recommended for fans of edge-of-your-seat, page-turning mysteries.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

click here to browse children's board book reviews
click here to browse children's picture book reviews
click here to browse young readers book reviews
click here to browse young readers book reviews
click here to browse young adult book reviews
click here to browse parenting book reviews
web reviews
  Douglas R. Cobb/2010 for curled up with a good kid's book  

For grown-up fiction, nonfiction and speculative fiction book reviews,
visit our sister site Curled Up With a Good Book (