Title: Pasadena by Sherri L. Smith
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Mystery
Length: 240 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program
Bad things happen everywhere. Even in the land of sun and roses.
When Jude’s best friend is found dead in a swimming pool, her family calls it an accident. Her friends call it suicide. But Jude calls it what it is: murder. And someone has to pay.
Now everyone is a suspect—family and friends alike. And Jude is digging up the past like bones from a shallow grave. Anything to get closer to the truth. But that’s the thing about secrets. Once they start turning up, nothing is sacred. And Jude’s got a few skeletons of her own.
In a homage to the great noir stories of Los Angeles, award-winning author Sherri L. Smith’s Pasadena is a tale of love, damage and salvation set against the backdrop of California’s City of Roses.
Pasadena by Sherri L. Smith is a poignant young adult mystery.
Jude is out of town when she finds out her best friend, Maggie Kim, is dead. Immediately flying back to Pasadena, she does not believe Maggie committed suicide; instead she is convinced her friend was murdered. Enlisting the aid of Joey, Jude immediately alienates a few of their mutual friends with her cutting remarks but she remains undeterred in her search for the truth. Battling a slew of demons of her own, Jude’s investigation uncovers some surprising revelations about her friend but most importantly, she discovers a few startling truths about herself.
Jude is devastated by Maggie’s death and although her friend made a few suicidal threats in the past, she is convinced that Maggie would never actually take her own life. Instead of focusing on her loss, she instead concentrates on piecing together the last few days of Maggie’s life. Beginning with their circle of eclectic friends, Jude’s caustic comments set everyone on edge but she really does not care overly much about their hurt feelings or the damage wrought in the aftermath. She is a little bothered by the realization that while Maggie is her best friend, she might not have been Maggie’s best friend.
Through flashbacks, Jude reminisces about their friendship and Maggie springs vividly to life. Vivacious, popular and a bit enigmatic, Maggie is larger than life and she embraces life wholeheartedly. She is an astute observer whose friends found it very easy to confide in her but in retrospect, she gave up very little information about herself. Her family is wealthy but money does not necessarily exempt them from experiencing problems or heartache. Jude uncovers unexpected information about both Maggie and her family but she still harbors doubts Maggie committed suicide. It is not until after Maggie’s funeral that Jude learns what happened to Maggie, but as she discovers, learning the truth does not lessen the pain of her friend’s death.
Pasadena is a gritty, raw and realistic young adult novel that deals with some pretty tough subject matter. Sherri L. Smith handles these difficult topics in a forthright and sensitive manner and these issues add a considerable amount of depth to the plot and the characters. Jude is initially a little too abrasive but as more details about her life emerge, she becomes much more sympathetic and easier to like. While the mystery surrounding Maggie’s death is completely satisfying, the novel concludes on a rather bittersweet note for Jude.