“Of course I didn’t like Digby when I first met him. No one does. Hes’s rude, he doesn’t ever take no for an answer, and he treats you like a book he’s already read and knows the ending to even if you yourself didn’t yet.”
And that's one of the best opening lines ever.
“My friendship with Digby, on the other hand, while circumstantially convenient--he just shows up, after all--is not easy. Nothing with that guy ever is. At first, I thought I hung out with him because I was bored and wanted to get back at Mom for moving me here. Then I thought it was because he seemed so lost and alone all the time.
But now I’m standing outside a house wired with enough explosives to blow up our entire block into a pile of matchsticks, trying to figure out the best way to get back in, and I realize that really, I’m the one who’s been lost.
But I’m jumping too far ahead. All this began on the first day of school and we need to go back there for you to understand."
I normally don't like those sorts of starts to books, but the author makes this sorta-prologue work.
Zoe Webster's parents recently got an ugly divorce whe her mom finally figured out her dad was cheating on her. Now Dad's remarried and still in NYC and Zoe and her mother have moved to River Heights (note: that's the hometown of Nancy Drew, folks!), New York, which she's not super fond of. Most people aren't terribly friendly and Zoe's primarily counting on getting into Prentiss, the fancy Princeton feeder school her dad wants her to attend in the future.
The one person who is friendly to Zoe is the aforementioned Digby, who shows up on her door one day, points out that he can tell nobody is home, he's seen her take selfies every day in front of her window, and can she send these to him? (For the record: he has a non-creepy reason for this we find out later.) Zoe chases him out, but Digby continues to be around, like when they both get busted by a truant officer and he arranges for them to both do an independent study project together. Said project turns out not to be the made up project Digby got approved, but boils down to "investigate the case of a missing teenage girl."
“Nah, it’s too late: You care. You’re on Planet Digby now. You’re already in trouble.” -Henry
A lot of people are comparing this to Veronica Mars, which isn't wrong. I'd say it's Veronica Mars combined with Bruno and Boots myself. Bruno thought up totally insane schemes all the time, with questionable to straight up no legality, and his best friend Boots attempted to reign him in a bit without much success. There's two Boots-type characters in this book, but Digby's nigh-impossible to rein in. He's a cross between a private investigator and a criminal mastermind. Heck, he's the kind of guy who investigates if those cookies are homemade or store bought and just microwaved.
Digby's got a backstory that's awful: when he was seven years old, his four year old sister was abducted from their shared bedroom. The FBI suspected both of his parents in the crime--mom's bipolar, dad's an alcoholic cheater gambler-- and suffice it to say Digby's spent years in therapy, has plenty of drug prescriptions, and certainly has his own issues that lead him into wanting to bust bad guys. He's recently returned from his dad's in Texas and needing a female for what he's about to investigate, recruits Zoe into helping him investigate a severely dicey gynecologist--who's also Zoe's mom's gynecologist. After busting that guy, they get into investigating the missing Marina Miller and whether or not her case has anything to do with Digby's sister.
“Seriously, though. I need to change my life story. I’m done being The Boy Whose Sister Was Taken. I need to either find Sally or find out how she died.”
The other Boots character in this is Henry Petropolous, the Greek god, football star, genuinely sweet and hot dude who's more or less Digby's best friend who he's been estranged from for years. (His one flaw is terrible taste in women.) Like Zoe, Henry soon gets pulled back into Digby's drama, investigating the strange religious cult across the street from Zoe's house, the burning Dumpster in the neighborhood, and how all of this weirdness ties together with the crooked gynecologist. Twelve-year-old bullied genius Felix Fong is also recruited into Digby's crew. Interestingly enough, there's a couple of local cops who care enough to investigate on their own time and are willing to cooperate a bit with Digby on their mutual quarries.
There's a wee bit of love triangle-ness going on. Zoe has a crush on Henry, who's dating snotty Sloane. Felix has a crush on Zoe and goes all out when asking her out (including booking a table at Red Lobster when he's allergic to most food). A weird girl at school, Bill, is interested in Digby, and meanwhile, Zoe's trying to figure out if she's interested in Digby despite all good sense and reason. As for Digby...maybe the same goes for him too?
Anyway, this book is just really fun to read. I reread it pretty much immediately after getting it. I got it from the library and I think I'm going to go buy it IRL sometime. I'm happy to have spotted online that she's planning a sequel, which it definitely needs after the "Hey, I want to know more here!" ending. (Not quite cliffhanger, but you'll want more...) I'm giving it four and a half stars because it's near epic.
I'm not only going to do a Quote Corner, I'm going to do a Spoiler Quote Corner behind the cut, just for fun.
- The one time you see Digby driving, hoo boy is he awful at it. He calls it "some good Texas driving."
- “Your driving is ridiculous. Even the car looks embarrassed.” -Zoe.
- “Dude, seriously, you’d drive better if you were actually drunk.” -Henry
- “Oh heeeey...Henry, I didn’t know you were coming.”
“Of course you did--that’s why you tried to run me over on Chestnut.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know that was you.”
“I could hear you laughing in your car, bro.” --Digby and Henry
- “Digby pulled out his little black notebook and flipped to a flowchart titled: “Plans for Break-in.” The first box in the chart had my name in it with an arrow to another box containing the words spray fake snow on chiropractor door. Written over the arrow were the words good girl in disguise and a little doodle of my face covered up with a Batman mask. He’d drawn a halo over my head.”
- “Hello, I need to report a break-in at twenty-five twenty-seven Pine. Three intruders are being held at gunpoint...What? No, we’re the intruders. Better hurry--I’m pretty sure he’s pissed off enough to kill us.” -Digby
- “Hey, people in school are calling us the Enforcers.”--Henry
- “Being friends with you’s more stressful and expensive than getting mugged. Which happened to me for real, by the way, so I know what I’m talking about.” -Zoe to Digby
- Digby’s job is running around in a Suzie Bear outfit. “This costume is awesome. It’s basically an invisibility cloak.”
- “Now, in the old days, I probably would’ve done the normal thing. Scream, storm out of the bathroom, thank God they hadn’t filmed me actually peeing, and then obsess about why Sloane was picking on me.
But these were new days. I had a scar on my chin. I was on a first-name basis with cops. For the past few nights, ever since the Dumpster fire, Digby had been coming over to hang out and eat, and I guess the sly tricks from the outrageous stories he’d been telling me had sunk in.” -Zoe
- “We should be going to the dance to have a good time, but we’re in Digby’s world now.” -Henry
- “Our time together’s mostly just him mocking me and me getting him food every couple of minutes.” -Zoe
And behind the cut... more spoiler quotes, so be forewarned.