My Book Review: Narc by Crissa-Jean Chappell




Flux Books

Pub Date:

August 08, 2012





Crissa-Jean Chappell




Realistic Fiction



288 p

"You're going to hate me forever when you learn my secret."

Seventeen-year-old stoner Aaron Foster was offered a choice: go to jail or turn undercover narc to find the dealer who's funneling drugs into Miami's Palm Hammock High School. But Aaron has never been good at getting close to people. He's human wallpaper, a stoner wastecase who's obsessed with video games and street magic.

With a cop from Narcotics breathing down his neck, Aaron gets himself invited to parties where the deals go down. To get close to the school's biggest players, Aaron lies to everyone-most of all, the cute but troubled Morgan Baskin. With the Everglades party on Halloween night-and a planned drug bust there-just days away, Aaron realizes that he's falling hard for Morgan . . . and trying to protect her could cost him everything. 


     I read this on a Kindle. That’s why I know that, when I was 44% of the way through, I almost threw in the towel. It wasn’t until I was 71% through the story that I began to have interest in Chappell’s characters. And I made it through to the end. Chappell redeemed herself; the book had a satisfying ending.


        In the beginning I found myself quite – very – extremely – confused by the setting of the story. I wasn’t sure if I had by accident skipped pages, forgotten what was happening, or was intentionally being befuddled as part of the author’s intentions. I also wasn’t sure if it was the setting that threw me off or if it was the progression of the plot. Initially, each scene introduced a new character, so I was then having difficulty placing characters into perspective with regards to their purpose to the storyline. Although the author introduced new characters, I didn’t feel like I was getting to know them, to understand their development and connection to the plot.


As far as motifs go, Chappell included two. The first was magic, magician-like magic. Coin tricks and levitation. The second was pigeons. Roof-top “sky rats” with babies. These two themes flowed well throughout the story and were not distracting; however, I do not feel like they were developed sufficiently enough to create thorough analogies to Aaron’s predicament. Aaron’s father, a war photographer, had recently died. Both from grief and from struggling to keep finances and family together, his distraught mother provided ineffective parenting. Aaron felt like it was up to him to protect his younger sister. (I believe the pigeon motif was intended to portray Aaron’s family dynamics.) Aaron’s other predicament involved the narc position that he agreed to assume in order to protect his younger sister, Haylie. It would take all sorts of magic and sleight-of-hand for Aaron to maintain his role of narc, especially since he began to have feelings for some of the people he would have to include in the potential bust, Morgan and Skully.


        Chappell’s writing accurately portrayed the wildfire nature of online social network posts, emails, phone photos, and instant messages. She used this phenomenon well to create the teenage interactions that allowed the story to progress the way it did. Aaron used the lack of privacy the Internet provides to research his potential targets for the police, to follow what people said about him during the story; he also used it to save his personal, unsent thoughts and tried to remove his history. Teen readers will relate well to Chappell’s use of the Internet as a conduit for the advancing action of the plot.


        Chappell finally created true plot tension towards the end of the story when the bust was supposed to go down. She allowed the reader to doubt the efficacy of Aaron’s plan and his ability to keep himself and his friends safe. Their quirky, unexpected rescue by some locals provided some tension release, while the reappearance of the police because of his narcotic agent-issued cell phone beacon adds back the realism to their dangerous situation.


        Ultimately, I enjoyed the ending because it did seem like it could happen. Aaron knew he couldn’t safely hang around his high school any more, so he got his GED instead.  Conveniently, his mom finished her schooling to be a nurse, which provided a plausible relocation for Aaron’s family. Aaron had one last chance meet-up with Morgan, and she turned out to have integrity, which made Aaron’s efforts all worth it. I’m glad I didn’t give up 44% of the way through the story, and I’m glad I got to experience Aaron’s vindication. All of this, nevertheless, did not make up for the whole book for me; I will probably not make this book part of my collection development plan.

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