Disclaimer: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Scholastic! All opinions are my own. This story was originally published in three different parts in ebook form. The book I am reviewing is the bind up of all three, in print for the first time.
Book: Flashes by Tim O’Rourke
Details: First book in YA paranormal mystery series
Publishing Information: Set to be released on October 27, 2015 by Scholastic, Inc.
First Sentence: I turned my back on my best friend’s grave as her black-suited family gathered around it.
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Charley has visions . . .
Flashes of things she can’t explain. A girl in trouble. The sound of trains. She feels certain they are clues to a crime. But no one will believe her. Until she meets Tom, a young policeman on his first case: an accidental death on the railway tracks, not far from where Charley lives. Was it an accident, suicide . . . or murder?
The attraction between Charley and Tom is instant, but can they work together to find out what really happened on the tracks before it happens again?
Cover Review: While I have to admit that this cover matches the plot of the story very well (which is something I’m always a fan of in covers) it’s not among my favorites. I don’t typically like people on covers and so this one doesn’t completely do it for me. Plus, there’s a train coming at you. Watch out! However, I think the way that the title “Flashes” is appearing to literally flash across the cover is pretty cool.
When I first heard about this book, it definitely intrigued me and I knew it was something that I’d want to read. It kind of sounded like what would happen if Nancy Drew was replaced by Raven from That’s So Raven, and that sounds like an amazing combination.
However, I wasn’t too blown away by this book, for multiple reasons, so I guess we’ll start with the cons.
I have no issue with YA books that don’t contain romance. In fact, I think that there is a desperate need for more YA books like that. However, this book advertises in the synopsis that there is a romance, and honestly it didn’t really feel like there was. I mean, if you read the book you would be able to tell me with no uncertainty who the “romance” was between, but it seemed so awkward and nothing really happened much with the relationship other than all of a sudden it existed.
I think part of my big issue with buying into this relationship was with the ages of the characters. Charley is 17 in the book, while her romantic interest Tom is 19. Obviously a two year age gap isn’t that big of a deal, but what felt weird to me is that the characters did not seem that age at all. I think Charley’s narrative made her seem much younger than 17, probably to make sure that she was still relatable to young adult readers. Tom’s character came off as much older than 19 to me, and I’m assuming that that ended up happening to ensure that the fact that he was a police officer who took his job very seriously seem more realistic. Because of this mental age gap in my mind, it was hard for me to imagine their relationship ever happening in real life.
One thing I did like with these characters, however, is the fact that they each had their own POV. The chapters alternated between Charley’s perspective and Tom’s, which I really enjoyed. Since this book was a mystery, it was fun to be seeing two sides of the crimes. Another nice aspect was that it was easy to differentiate one perspective from another. My biggest issue with books that have multiple POVs is when there is no difference between the narrative styles of different characters. I never had any issues knowing which character was now telling the story in Flashes.
My biggest issue with this book was the writing style. It was so simplistic, and some of the literary techniques seemed kind of childish considering this book is advertised for being for teenagers. Something about lines that describes a train coming and then going, Clickety-clack, clickety-clack seemed really juvenile. Also, there were some random mentions of pop artists, like Coldplay and Ellie Goulding. There wasn’t any particular reason for these references, but they happened quite a few times and always stood out as kind of forced and strange to me.
However, the fact that the book wasn’t too complicatedly written made it incredibly easy to follow and to read. Although it was a little repetitive at times, I absolutely flew through this book, which was nice. It made the book incredibly easy to pick up and keep reading.
As for the plot, it wasn’t as intense as you would expect it to be, considering it deals with investigating murders. For me, some of the highest intensity moments were Charley’s constant arguments with her dad about when she’s allowed to leave the house and hang out with Tom.
That being said, the ending delivered for me. I personally didn’t guess it, but I love that, looking back, I probably should’ve. O’Rourke had weaved foreshadowing and clues leading up to the big reveal into the plot. I always appreciate when mystery authors give you an opportunity to solve the mystery alongside the characters. And once the mystery was solved… holy cow, that got intense fast. Like, I had to put the book down for a while because I was so disturbed. While there were some supernatural elements that weren’t fully explained (like Facetiming ghosts), I’m giving this book the benefit of the doubt in assuming that these things will be cleared up in future books.
Although I didn’t find this book incredibly amazing, I still did enjoy my time reading it. It was a very fast read, so if you’re looking for a fun (and eventually terrifying) read, or even a book to get you into mystery novels without being too complex right off the bat I would definitely consider picking this one up. I’m also in the minority (according to Goodreads) of people who didn’t absolutely love this book, so I think it’s definitely worth reading some other reviews before you make your decision about whether or not this book would be a good fit for you.