Book One of the Bea Catcher Chronicles
By Olivia Samms
Available now from Amazon Children's
Olivia Samms' debut novel is an interesting blend of paranormal, mystery, and contemporary issue novels. Bea Washington is an addict who has been clean for a little more than three months. She's trying to regain her balance after getting out of rehab and starting over in a public school. But she has a secret ability - when she sketches, she can draw images from peoples' minds. There's a serial rapist murderer on a spree, and local cheerleader Willa Pressman survived. Bea quickly realizes Willa knows more than she's telling police.
SKETCHY has a dynamic premise and interesting characters. Bea got hooked on drugs pretty young, and it's hard for her to stay clean. The temptation is pretty constant. But she is resisting. Throwing herself into the mystery helps her have something to focus on. There's also a great deal of personal guilt driving her to find the perpetrator. Bea is well aware of many of her faults and mistakes, but she doesn't let them define her. And sometimes she is blind to them - she's a teenager, perfect self awareness would be unreal. Most hilariously, she wonders why her parents don't trust her again after three whole months of sobriety.
The side characters are well done too. Willa must have a reason for not telling the truth, so there's a mystery to unravel there. And Bea reconnects with an old friend from art camp, Chris. He listens to Bea and helps out, but he's got his own goals too. He's a photographer who has her model for him in return. There are also two police detectives who keep running into Bea, one of whom is much more willing to listen to her when she tells them things she couldn't possibly know.
The mystery isn't the strongest aspect of SKETCHY. I guessed who the killer was pretty easily. But there are some nice touches. I enjoyed how involved the cops were. Bea can't just solve the case through mystical means. Evidence is needed to arrest people and take them to trial. Finding out who the killer is is important, but so is proving it. (But Bea could make things easier on herself by making more of an effort to be civil to the cops. At least the one that doesn't flirt with her.)
I think SKETCHY is a brilliant start to a series. The characters are flawed people, but they have many good qualities. There's also some interesting social dynamics at play. (For instance, Bea is biracial. Her father is black and her mother is white.) Plus, SKETCHY ends with a massive hook for the next book in the Bea Catcher Chronicles. Be warned, SKETCHY is upper YA - if the drug addiction, rape, and murder didn't give it away.