In Gemma Halliday’s Deadly Cool series, high school students don’t just worry about being popular or getting into college – these teens also have to worry about just surviving the day. This high school has a high body count, and Hartley Featherstone always finds herself right in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s strange to think that a series about murders in high school could be in the “feel good” book category, but that’s what these were to me. This series is a breath of fresh air, witty and sharp and lots of fun, in a black comedy kind of way. Savvy readers will be able to solve the mystery, but it’s still a worthwhile and enjoyable journey.
I read both books in the series back to back, and since they follow the same formula, rather than repeat myself I’ll just talk about both books. In the first book, Deadly Cool, Hartley finds out that her boyfriend Josh has been cheating on her, and when her rival Courtney (president of the chastity club!) turns up dead, Josh is the top suspect. To complicate matters, Hartley’s the only one who believes in him and can help clear his name. Meanwhile, the bodies are piling up and it looks like Hartley’s number could be up next if she and her friends (the police are clueless) don’t solve the mystery in time.
Hartley is the kind of girl you want to be friends with, she is sweet and funny and sarcastic, and she gets into the funniest situations. Hartley is not on her own in her murder solving endeavors. She has her own Scooby gang (Hartley favors herself more as a Nancy Drew really) to help her out. Hartley’s BFF Sam is along for the ride (and they are riding in her environmentally conscious brother’s vegetable oil powered Volvo.) to support her friend in her schemes. Hartley’s mom also provides some comic relief with her creative vegetarian recipes. (Oh, those wacky vegetarians!)
Goth-wannabe-bad-boy /school-newspaper-editor Chase also gets involved in solving the mystery. The series is light in romance, but Chase and Hartley do have some will they/won’t they moments and they have charming chemistry. There’s a scene where Hartley hides in Chase’s bedroom that is simply hilarious.
The sequel Social Suicide again kicks off with a murder (they should really close down Herbert Hoover High) – this one by “Twittercide” and involves a cheating ring. Hartley finds herself in the center of the mystery again, and now she’s also working with Chase on the school newspaper so she has a legitimate reason to investigate. The local police are getting a little suspicious of Hartley now since she’s always around when the dead bodies are located. Besides the case, and stressing about her crush Chase, Hartley also is worried about her mom’s online dating life. Comic hijinks ensue once again!
This series is so light and fun, and I liked the sequel just as much as Deadly Cool. The mystery, humor and light romance combo succeed in this fast-paced series. It’s really not too dark or morbid at all; it’s kind of Heathers-light. I couldn’t find any information regarding a book 3 but I certainly hope there is one!
Find out more about the series here: