Series: Don't Get Mad #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on 9/16/14
Genres: Contemporary, Mysteries, Mystery & Detective, Young Adult
My content rating: Mature YA (Characters do have sex, but it's not really shown, Some mild violence)
The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars in Gretchen McNeil’s witty and suspenseful novel about four disparate girls who join forces to take revenge on high school bullies and create dangerous enemies for themselves in the process.
Bree, Olivia, Kitty, and Margot have nothing in common—at least that’s what they’d like the students and administrators of their elite private school to think. The girls have different goals, different friends, and different lives, but they share one very big secret: They’re all members of Don’t Get Mad, a secret society that anonymously takes revenge on the school’s bullies, mean girls, and tyrannical teachers.
When their latest target ends up dead with a blood-soaked “DGM” card in his hands, the girls realize that they’re not as anonymous as they thought—and that someone now wants revenge on them. Soon the clues are piling up, the police are closing in . . . and everyone has something to lose.
Get Dirty by Gretchen McNeil
Series: Don’t Get Mad #2
Also in this series: Get Even
Published by Balzer & Bray on 6/16/15
Genres: Contemporary, Mysteries & Detective Stories,Mystery & Detective, Young Adult
My content rating: Mature YA (Characters do have sex, but it’s not really shown, Some violence)
The members of Don’t Get Mad aren’t just mad anymore . . . they’re afraid. And with Margot in a coma and Bree stuck in juvie, it’s up to Olivia and Kitty to try to catch their deadly tormentor. But just as the girls are about to go on the offensive, Ed the Head reveals a shocking secret that turns all their theories upside down. The killer could be anyone, and this time he—or she—is out for more than just revenge.
The girls desperately try to discover the killer’s identity as their personal lives are falling apart: Donté is pulling away from Kitty and seems to be hiding a secret of his own, Bree is under house arrest, and Olivia’s mother is on an emotional downward spiral. The killer is closing in, the threats are becoming more personal, and when the police refuse to listen, the girls have no choice but to confront their anonymous friend . . . or die trying.
The Don’t Get Mad Duology is a fun YA mystery in the vein of Pretty Little Liars, with plenty of mystery, intrigue and twists and turns, a dash of romance and a nice helping of back-stabbing to go on the side. I decided to go ahead and review these two books together since I read both books in the duology one right after the other. The book follows a group of four girls who have very publicly (but also secretly) been getting back at their school’s bullies. They formed a group called DGM (Don’t Get Mad) that exposes the truth about their peers – and sometimes their teachers – but the school administration is hot on their tail. When one of DGM’s targets ends up dead, DGM is the prime suspect, and the girls have to discover who the real killer is before their own identities are exposed. Of course, that proves difficult to do when the killer starts coming after them. They find that their identities may not be so secret after all!
What I LOVED:
- Short and sweet. I was really glad that this was just a two book series, and the mystery didn’t drag on forever. One book to set things up – and to get the girls into a world of trouble – and one book to bring other characters into the fold and to wrap up the mystery. It was perfect!
- The girls. I really liked and connected to all four girls in DGM (though I had the least connection to Kitty), and I liked how all of them were very different and yet brought together by the DGM cause. We got to see the story from each of their POV’s (and in the second book, we got a new POV – but I won’t say who that is because it feels like a bit of a spoiler). Margot was possibly my favorite of the girls – a bit of a computer nerd who feels kind of invisible. Then there was Olivia – hanging out with the popular crowd and trying to feel like she belonged, even though someone in her crowd was often the DGM target. Bree was the rebel, who just wanted to break away from the strict confines of her political family, and Kitty was an upstanding member of student government and a jock. Each of their girls had a personal reason that they had joined DGM – something that they felt they had to atone for (or something that happened to them that they wanted revenge for). We learned their stories throughout the two books and got to see why they felt like they needed DGM.
- The guys. Throughout the books, we also got to know a few of the guys, who ended up being entangled in the DGM murder mysteries, no matter how hard the girls tried to keep them out of it. John, Bree’s best friend; Ed the Head, who likes to make a buck off of the student body in any way he can; Logan, Margot’s crush; and Donte, Olivia’s ex – they were all pulled into the mystery. My favorites were John and Ed the Head!
- Lots of twists and turns. Like any good mystery, this book kept you guessing about who was really behind the murders. The girls find lots of misleading clues and head down several wrong paths before they discover the truth. While I did have a good guess at who the killer was (which turned out to be right), it was really just a guess – I was never sure, and there were plenty of times when I thought it could be someone else. Getting to that final conclusion was a bumpy but enjoyable ride!
- Unrealistic. I found it a bit unbelievable that their were two teenage characters in this book that could basically hack into anything – police databases, school records, etc. Very handy. Also, everyone wanted to solve this murder – not just the DGM girls but also the (horrible and cartoonish Catholic) principle of the school, Father Umberti and the (also horrible and cartoonish) Coach Creed and his group of students. Apparently no one thought it was actually the police’s job to solve murders.
- The romances. Romance definitely wasn’t the focus of these books, but I wasn’t a fan of the elements that were there for the most part. There were three different romances in the book (maybe four?), but there was only one couple that I was really interested in (and the non-couple that counts at the fourth romance). The other two were just blah and insta-lovey. Luckily, romance was just a tiny part of the books, so I was okay.
- Revenge. I sometimes wondered a little bit about DGM in general. First off, the group got revenge on bullies by publicly humiliating them (though I will say that the humiliations generally seemed pretty tame) – I guess I was a bit torn on how I felt about that, but I will say that some of the things that the people they were getting revenge on were doing were pretty horrendous (why on earth did this school have so many utterly disgusting teenagers?!). And then there was the girls reasons for joining DGM. One of the girls felt horrible about exposing her friends’ cheating – the overall message seemed to be that she had done something really horrible to her friend (and the others who were cheating), but I couldn’t help but feel like that was a bad message. Really, if someone knows that there is a massive cheating ring going on and that people are trying to pull others into it, I don’t think they should have to feel all that terrible for telling someone.
So, overall, I really enjoyed these books. While this wasn’t the most realistic depiction of crime solving, it was a fun ride! I give both books 4/5 stars!
***Disclosure: These books were provided to me by the publisher and/or NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author
Gretchen McNeil is an opera singer, writer and clown. Her YA horror POSSESS about a teen exorcist debuted with Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins in 2011. Gretchen’s follow up TEN – YA horror/suspense about ten teens trapped on a remote island with a serial killer – was a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, a Romantic Times Top Pick, a Booklist Top Ten Horror Fiction for Youth, a finalist for Washington state’s 2015 Evergreen Young Adult Book Award and Vermont’s 2014-2015 Green Mountain Book Award, and was nominated for “Best Young Adult Contemporary Novel of 2012″ by Romantic Times. In 2013, she released 3:59, a sci-fi doppelganger horror about two girls who are the same girl in parallel dimensions who decide to switch places.
In 2014, Gretchen debuted her first series, Don’t Get Mad (pitched as “John Hughes with a body count”), also with Balzer + Bray. GET EVEN and GET DIRTY follow four very different girls who form a secret society where they get revenge on bullies and mean girls at their elite prep school.
Gretchen will publish two novels with HarperCollins in 2016: RELIC, a horror novel about a group of teens who, while exploring an old mine, accidentally unleash a creature who is hunting them down and cannibalizing their bodies, releases March 8, 2016; I’M NOT YOUR MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL, a YA contemporary novel about a math-minded control freak who loses her boyfriend to the quirky new girl in school and sets out to reinvent herself as a classic manic pixie dream girl in order to win him back, which will be out in the fall. Gretchen’s novels have been optioned by Hollywood production companies, and have sold internationally in Chinese, Spanish, and Turkish.
In addition to her novels, Gretchen has contributed an essay to the Dear Teen Me anthology from Zest Books.
Gretchen is a former coloratura soprano, the voice of Mary on G4’s Code Monkeys and she sings with the LA-based circus troupe Cirque Berzerk.