Reader Review: The Amateurs #1 – Sara Shepard

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The Amateurs:
★★★

This book firstly caught my attention when I was looking through recommended book lists. I remember that it was recommended to follow an interesting, mystery led plot line and, after also eyeing the book and having been considering just reading it, I decided to take the nose dive and read my first Sara Shepard novel. Sadly, I wasn’t overly impressed.

The plotline follows a group of novice detectives who all get find involved in solving the murder of one character’s sister who went missing 5 years beforehand. It’s a complication of online friendships gone wrong, long-hidden secrets being discovered, and stories being flipped on their heads.

One of the things that interested me about the book is the premise – I was hoping that it would live up to its potential of being interesting and intriguing as, from the initial thought of it, there’s a lot of different ways for the story to go. The opening is good – it draws the reader in quickly and easily showcases that there’s more information to be revealed. This makes the audience want to discover more details regarding the characters and the stories, which is quite obviously effective as the readers want to know why the characters are acting in certain ways, and so forth. The small details of the plot – the character secrets – are hinted at as the story progresses, so the reader is continuously wanting to find out more.

As the plot continues and the story expands into a larger territory with a larger cast, the world building and the characters are well written. The reader is able to get a good image of the locations so they feel more involved, which clearly helps maintain the attention further. As well as this, I noted that the characters are indeed racially diverse, which is always a good thing for further representation.

However, I did have a lot more issues with the book than I did have likes. One of the biggest problems for me is that the romance subplots were uninteresting and unnecessary. I found that they didn’t add to the story and were rather just pushed into the plotline to tick more tropes/cliches off the list. I wanted to read a book about friends coming together acting as detectives for a mystery – I wasn’t interested in being wrapped up in a mess of a love story trying to figure out who’s going to hook up next.

As well as this, the characters aren’t all that well developed – they feel like two dimensional, copy and pasted characters as they don’t expand through the story. This is more notable as the plot continues and the characters don’t grow – they just stay bland. You don’t connect with them or the friendships, which I think adds to the bore of the attempted relationship building.

They’re not good detectives at all! That’s blatantly obvious. Firstly, some of the situations are handled in such a bland way. The reactions of the characters are just focused on shrugging off things that would’ve been much bigger issues. For example, the hotel fire was pretty much ignored and not explored, which is unrealistic. The storyline is very much focused on things happening conveniently and the coincidences that occur within the plot just leave bigger holes to be questioned. Things happening at the precisely correct moment, passwords being easily discovered, and so forth just makes it seem less immersive and less interesting. It seems to flow too easy to be taken seriously. As a result of this, there’s not much interesting action because it isn’t developed to a bigger extent and the story doesn’t seem well planned out.

Though, when it comes to the end of the story, I did indeed like the plot twist. I had heard that Sara Shepard is rather known for her unexpected twists, so I was glad that I was actually taken somewhat for a surprise but I wasn’t shocked. The story and the characters were not developed enough for the twist to take me off guard. The book is open-ended for the continuation of the series overall, but there’s no real motivation for the readers to continue following it.

To put it simply; my first Sara Shepard book did not live up to the hype that I was expecting of it. The premise and the storyline has a lot of potential, but I don’t feel as if the story has been constructed well enough at all. It does indeed draw the reader in – it makes the audience think and the world building is immersive to a certain extent. Though, as the plot continues, things happen too unrealistically to be taken seriously and the characters remain dull without being given any depth. There’s a lot more that could’ve been done with the idea, so it was disappointing overall.

Thanks for reading my short review and I’ll write you later.

If you’re a fan of Sara Shepard’s other works, enjoy complicated romance plots and amateur detectives, then I’d give the book a shot anyway – see if you like it.

If you’re familiar with the phone app Whisper and happen to like the concept, then hit this book up because they are striking similarities.

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