Mojo, by Tim Tharp

Last week, I complained at length about a novelist whose characters spoke only in sparkling witticisms. I clearly need to be more careful what I wish for, because the first book I read this week features characters who show all the intellectual prowess of a cheese sandwich.

Tim Tharp's Mojo centers around sixteen-year-old Dylan Jones, a pudgy, Pork pie-hat-wearing doofus who discovers the body of a murdered classmate in a dumpster. Dylan has always floated somewhere in the middle of his school's popularity rankings, but accidentally landing on a dead body while hiding in a pile of trash doesn't do much for his social status. Hoping to earn some respect (or at least a hefty cash reward), Dylan sets out to actually solve a mystery: the disappearance of Ashton Browning, a beautiful, wealthy girl from a local prep school.

Look, if I had to choose between last week's disaster and Mojo, it would be Tharp's book all the way. His mystery is pretty juicy, as teen-lit books go, and his descriptive passages are great:
“And that was when these two ape men in an orange Camaro drove by, and the guy on the passenger side unloaded a half-full beer can that hit Randy right in the crotch.

Randy wasn't a big guy, but he did have a big mouth and wasn't exactly a genius, so he screamed one of his favorite obscenities and, in the direction of the Camaro, launched the single-finger salute, a.k.a. the “F” sign. As in “F” for fool. Because that's what you have to be to flip off a couple of nineteen- or twenty-year-old vo-tech-dropout gearheads on a weekend bender.”
Unfortunately, Dylan's dim-witted detecting is the most far-fetched thing about this story, and that's saying a lot about a book that features a bunch of rich kids whose spoiled scheming would not have been out of place in Cruel Intentions. Dylan's “investigation” involves literally falling over a clue, scanning Facebook pages, and asking a bunch of super-obvious questions. If any of the adult characters in this story—the police, parents, the private detective hired by Ashton's family—had even half a brain, there would be no mystery to solve. I realize I'm contradicting the very thing I complained about last week, but isn't there some kind of happy medium between “impossibly brilliant” and “dumber than dirt”?

Posted by: Julianka


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