Buzz Kill

Common Sense Media says

Teen murder mystery is fun, flighty, formulaic.

Age(i)

2
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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

A few French phrases are explained or translated. Dexamethasone is explained. Kids will learn a little about Title IX and arguments in its favor, as well as arguments in favor of allocating more resources and perks to sports that generate more revenue than women's sports.

Positive messages

Librarians are invaluable resources, and befriending one can enrich your life in many ways. Accept yourself for who you are; it's others' loss if they don't accept you. Life is short and unpredictable, so grasp the moments as they come, even if you mess them up. Gay stereotypes are reinforced when a gay character is pointedly described as the opposite of the stereotypes. Heroine Millie, a senior in high school, reinforces the gender double standard when it comes to sexuality, mentioning a fear of a "reputation" and thinking it's "borderline sleazy" to have kissed her love interest.

Positive role models

Millie's a smart high school senior who reads philosophy for fun. She's not afraid to be herself, even if that makes her an oddity in high school, and she's not interested in relationships with people who don't accept her as she is. She also refuses to change herself to conform to her love interest's feminine stereotypes. Chase, the love interest, is aloof and guilt-ridden about something in his past, but he's kind to others and loyal to Millie, helping her with the murder investigation. The town librarian, Ms. Parkins, is a great mentoring role model, and Millie's father also is loving and caring, if emotionally distant at times.

Violence

An irate football coach kicks the team mascot, knocking him down. He also raises a fist to another coach but is stopped before throwing a punch. The murder victim's bashed-in head is mentioned but not described. A brief skirmish involves a blunt object being brandished and someone being knocked unconscious.

Sex

Seeing up a skirt is mentioned. A character's "legendary cleavage" and another's large chest are mentioned. Millie and Chase kiss several times, from quick pecks to long and passionate ones; most aren't described, but one or two are described vaguely.

Language

"Butt" is used a dozen times or so. Stronger words used a few times each include "ass," "sucks," "boobs," "son of a bitch," "SOB," "crap," "piss," and "hell."

Consumerism

Chase's luxurious new BMW is mentioned many times. Other products mentioned once or twice include Charleston Chew, WhitePages.com, Chex Mix, Werther's Originals, Devil Dogs, Faded Glory, Walmart, Dunkin' Donuts, Sports Illustrated, Fudgsicle, Sharpie, Hersheypark, Slim Jims, Honda, Lemonheads, Mazda, Little Debbie, PowerPoint, Doritos, and Saran Wrap. Diet Coke and Google are mentioned three or four times each.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Chase admits to past drinking and implies he also used drugs. Drastic negative consequences are mentioned, including a conviction of involuntary manslaughter and incarceration. One use for prescription dexamethasone is explained. Shooting heroin is mentioned sarcastically. 

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Buzz Kill is a fun addition to the teen mystery genre. Heroine Millie is a smart high school senior and a great model for being yourself and not changing only to conform. For a murder mystery, there's very little violence: The victim's fatal injury is described briefly and without gore. Otherwise there are a couple instances of hitting, and one victim is knocked unconscious. A character's past drug and alcohol abuse is mentioned, and the negative consequences are described. The teens use mild profanity moderately: "Butt" is used frequently, and stronger words such as "ass" and "hell" are used a few times each. The positive messages about making the most of the short time you have and being yourself are very briefly and subtly undercut by reinforcements of gay stereotypes (by pointing out someone's the opposite of the stereotype) and the gender double standard (when Millie fears a bad reputation and feels a bit "sleazy" for kissing her love interest).

What's the story?

There's a long list of people at Honeywell High who might have a reason to want the football coach dead. But when Coach Killdare's body is discovered, the police quickly zero in on Millie's father, the town mayor and assistant coach, as the prime suspect. Convinced of her father's innocence, Millie draws inspiration from her childhood favorite, Nancy Drew, to investigate the murder herself and clear her father's name. The mysterious quarterback Chase, who's definitely hiding something himself, agrees to help Millie get to the truth. With her rival Vivienne throwing obstacles in her path at every turn, Millie will need all the help she can get to solve the crime.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

BUZZ KILL is an enjoyable, if a bit frivolous, teen murder mystery with a structure and formula that follows in the comfortable footsteps laid by Agatha Christie and Carolyn Keene. The heroine, Millie, is smart and quirky, a worthy heiress to her favorite teen sleuth Nancy Drew, who provides the inspiration for her pluck, determination, and resolve.

Teens will easily relate to Millie's struggles with feeling like an outsider. Veteran mystery readers may stay a step or two ahead of Millie, but even those who can spot the red herrings will enjoy author Beth Fantaskey's lively, engaging writing and root for Millie to solve the crime and get the guy.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why murder mysteries are so popular. Why do we enjoy reading them so much? What are some of your favorites? How does Buzz Kill compare with your favorites?

  • Did you solve the mystery before Millie did? If you did, how did you figure it out? If you didn't, how surprised were you when you learned who the murderer was?

  • Ms. Parkins, the librarian, is a big help to Millie both with books and her personal life. Do you know your librarian? Has he or she ever helped you with a project or a problem? 

Book details

Author:Beth Fantaskey
Genre:Mystery
Topics:Great girl role models, High school, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:May 6, 2014
Number of pages:368
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17
Available on:Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle, Nook

This review of Buzz Kill was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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