Taking the High Ground
Joelle is a pretty normal high schooler: she runs cross country, takes her fair share of AP classes, tries to keep off her police officer uncle's radar and does Civil War reenactments with her parents. (You don't? Oh.) But trouble is brewing in her small Midwestern town --- trouble that might land her college freshman older brother in prison.
Alessio's plotting is excellent. Even minor characters have interesting, believable motives
First, she learns that her brother Jordan broke a mirror in the dorm bathroom --- with his fist --- and that his girlfriend, Michelle, broke up with him after he hit her. Then Joelle sees him fighting with a high school senior named Eli after a football game, ultimately punching the senior to the ground while Michelle tries to stop him. When Eli is stabbed in the leg on his own driveway that very night, Jordan is a prime suspect. As Joelle tries to clear her brother's name, she finds Michelle murdered, and once again, Jordan is a suspect.
But the problems in the town stretch far above Jordan's struggles and the recent bouts of violence, and Joelle must uncover the secrets that led to Michelle's murder. She is the only person standing on the high ground, the only one able to see all the clues from college, high school, Civil War reenactments and families in the town --- which makes Joelle a target.
TAKING THE HIGH GROUND is a complicated, layered, fast-reading high school murder mystery. Though the prose and dialogue are at times clunky or stilted, Alessio's plotting is excellent. Even minor characters have interesting, believable motives, and secrets are discovered and brought to light at a good pace. Best of all, the complexity of the clues translates into a satisfyingly complex, believable denouement.
Reviewed by Quinn Colter on December 31, 2013