Saturday, November 14, 2015

Dead Ringer by Jessie Rosen

From the moment Laura Rivers steps foot into Englewood High, she notices the stares—and they aren’t the typical once-overs every pretty new girl endures. The students seem confused and…spooked. Whispers echoing through the halls confirm that something is seriously off. “That new girl looks just like her,” they say.

It turns out Laura has a doppelgänger, and it isn't just anyone—it's Sarah Castro-Tanner, the girl who killed herself by jumping into the Navasink River one year ago.

Laura is determined not to let the gossip ruin her chances of making a fresh start. Thanks to her charming personality and California tan, she catches the eye of Englewood’s undisputed golden boy, Charlie Sanders, and it’s only a matter of time before they make their relationship official.

But something is making Charlie and his friends paranoid—and Laura soon discovers it has to do with Sarah Castro-Tanner.

What really happened to Sarah? Why is Charlie unraveling? And how does Laura Rivers fit into it all?

After all, she’s the dead ringer for a dead girl.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

2.5 stars. Listed as 3 Stars because there are no half star allowances in the system.

Jessie Rosen has promise as a storyteller, but the execution wasn't spot-on. The flow of information was at a snail's pace, and everything HAD to be a mystery, even things that shouldn't have been because they didn't connect to anything else. Characterization should NEVER be a mystery. The who/how/what/where/why is what makes a story, and to give it out piecemeal is not a mystery but a flaw in the writing style that left me disinterested. You have to give the reader something to grip onto, something that engages them and keeps them interested. If they have to read 300+ pages to find out an answer to the smallest things, with it all being buried among the mundane, they may just give up and find another story to read. Or skim – like I eventually had to do in order to continue because I was bored by not knowing anything.

In a mystery, everything cannot be the mystery. It buries the real plot beneath the information that makes a story fluid and engaging.

I was prepared for an on-the-edge-of-my-seat type of read. Where your heart pounds with nervous energy. This is why I warn that only the actual young adults should read Dead Ringer, as the true adults will never hit that plateau. As with PLL (the television series), I was disappointed over the fact that things that are presented as a mystery, that should have connected, but never did. They were just loose ends not explained and forgotten, or completely disregarded as the author rewrites the history they built in the first place.

Dead Ringer begins with Laura moving to a new town, going to a new school, where she is the Dead Ringer for a dead girl – a girl who committed suicide nearly two years ago when she was only 14. Only, the thing is, Laura looks NOTHING like Sarah. Hair color/eye color, all opposites of Sarah. The face was ‘similar.’ So that is not what I'd call a Dead Ringer at all. In fact, siblings who actually do look alike, even twins, when their hair color isn't the same, they look nothing like each other. This plays into the storyline later on, and it actually defeats the purpose – the supposedly looking like a Dead Ringer, but not actually looking the same. (If you're reading this review after reading the book, do you see what I mean? Why bother?)

Bear in mind, the incident happens at 14. At 16, the children have no parental supervision and have endless amounts of money, are geniuses, and behave like 50 yo egomaniacs. This is why I said younger readers would suspend believe, whereas I couldn't. 14-year-old hackers exist, but not in a vacuum. They have to have means, know-how, and helpers. Just like the major plot hole in PLL, A could NOT be everywhere, and Sasha couldn't know what she knew from surfing her programs twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening. Not possible. Another major player was able to do things that are illegal from age 14 – 16 (things well-connected adults could never achieve), when they would have had to use legal paperwork to be where they were. (Like today, an 18 yo boy found out he was kidnapped when he was 5 when his college submission paperwork didn't add up). NO WAY could anything that happened in Dead Ringer even be plausible. Yes, it's fiction.

Nothing connected, added up, and some things were downright contradictory. Things from the beginning of the book, the narrator was unreliable, even when dealing with their own private thoughts. Making the entire story a huge lie. It wasn't a mystery, to me – it was shoddy writing. Young adults won't notice, adults will. So I'm not faulting the author, I'm saying adults may be disappointed by how glaring it will become.

In the end, none of it was remotely possible, no matter how much suspension of belief the reader uses. 3 stars because a young adult will probably get a kick out of the story...


If I would have edited this book, I would have told the author to write the entire thing from Charlie's POV, so the big reveal of the mystery wouldn't have been a contradiction – or an outright lie. With Charlie showing what had happened before the book even hit the 1/3 mark, and the mystery slowly unraveling from there to show who is whom and why. The narrative by one character negated the entire story. When you're inside a character's head, they cannot keep something so major hidden, causing readers to no longer trust the author.

Age range: 12+. Parents, this is a murder/suicide mystery who-done-it, so be forewarned about violent content.

(A new addition to my reviews) With so many adults reading the YA genre, I felt it necessary to add on whether or not an adult would enjoy the novel. I'm on the fence with Dead Ringer on whether or not an adult would enjoy it. In my opinion, no. This is a Young Adult title that should only be read by Young Adults, as with anyone with life experience will begin to doubt everything you read on the pages.

Genre: Young Adult | Mystery/suspense |

NOTE: NOT a stand-alone. This is book #1 in a series, which does end in a cliffhanger. While there is nothing in the blurb or the series information that denotes this as not being a standalone. So, that, in and of itself, is a mystery to be solved by the reader by book's end.

Recommended for young adults who love a who-done-it mystery, similar to Pretty Little Liars and the Lying Game. As a huge Shepard fan, both in reading her books and watching the adaptations, I jumped at the chance to read Dead Ringer.

Jessie Rosen is a writer, producer, and performer. She grew up in New Jersey, attended Boston College in Massachusetts, and began her writing career in New York. Her live storytelling series Sunday Night Sex Talk has received national attention. She was named one of “The 25 Best Bloggers, 2013 Edition” by TIME magazine for her blog 20-Nothings, which was also named in “The 100 Best Websites for Women” and “The Top 10 Best Websites for Millennial Women” in 2013 by Forbes.

Rosen is the oldest of four girls, which gives her a special window into the minds of teenagers. She now lives in Los Angeles, where she’s working on film and television projects, as well as her next novel.

Connect with Jessie

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Google+  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Dead Ringer by Jessie Rosen to read and review.

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