Lydia Chass doesn’t mind living in a small town; she just doesn’t want to die in one. A lifetime of hard work has put her on track to attend a prestigious journalism program and leave Henley behind—until a school error leaves her a credit short of graduating. Undeterred, Lydia has a plan to earn that credit: transform her listener-friendly local history podcast into a truth-telling exposé. She’ll investigate the Long Stretch of Bad Days: a week when Henley was hit by a tornado and a flash food as well as its first—and only—murder, which remains unsolved.
But Lydia needs help to bring grit to the show. Bristal Jamison has a bad reputation and a foul mouth, but she also needs a credit to graduate. The unexpected partnership brings together the Chass family—a pillar of the community—and the rough-and-tumble Jamisons, with Bristal hoping to be the first in her family to graduate. Together, they dig into the town’s worst week, determined to solve the murder.
Their investigation unearths buried secrets: a hidden town brothel, lost family treasure, and a teen girl who disappeared. But the past is never far, and some don’t want it to see the light. As threats escalate, the girls have to uncover the truth before the dark history of Henley catches up with them.
Title : A Long Stretch of Bad Days
Author : Mindy McGinnis
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA mystery / thriller
Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date : March 14, 2023
Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5
Hollis’ 4.5 star review
Anyone who has read this author before knows that you really don’t know what you’re going to get when dipping into one of her books. But, having said that, this might be her most straight-forward, or dare I say tame?, or maybe just easily-marketable, books in a long long time. I haven’t always loved McGinnis but she always does something different — often bonkers weird — and even if I’ve disliked her previous release, I still pick up the next. And because of the aforementioned tame-ness of this one, I think — hope! — this gets her a slew of new fans.
“.. even when everyone involved has the best intentions [..], sometimes people fall through the cracks.“
“Funny thing about those cracks. Most of them are teenage-girl shaped.“
A Long Stretch of Bad Days gives off shades of Veronica Mars in some ways. Or, if that reference is now a little too old for the YA crowd (urk, my heart), think Sadie. Or A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. While our two characters don’t set out to solve a crime, they end up in the middle of one anyway, complete with viral podcast episodes. But where this differs is.. the stakes. No one sets out to investigate a loss that is deeply personal to them. And no one is intentionally throwing themselves into the line of fire. What starts out as a trip down memory lane to revisit a horrible disaster in their small town, turns into something more.
“Aggravated assault? How is that different from regular assault?“
“It’s the level of intent of harm meant for the victim. But it totally needs to be renamed because I’ve never committed an assault where I wasn’t aggravated first.”
But also? It’s fucking funny. Like, I cannot tell you how many times I laughed out loud. We live this story through Lydia’s perspective but Bristal often outshines her. But both these characters are brilliant. Complex, layered, and so real.
There is also something of a wo-mance (haha, I hated this immediately, sorry) between these two in the best kind of way. Or, put another way, if it was a romance, I would say it’s an opposites attract, with one girl from the wrong side of the tracks, even. But it’s not a romance so I can’t say that. You get it, though. Also? I love that it’s not a romance. I love when we just get a great platonic friendship to spotlight instead of something more, especially in YA.
I think initially I said this was straight-forward but I don’t mean there aren’t twists and turns and discoveries to be found. You might guess things along the way (I had my suspicions!) but the earlier reference is just in relative terms to the author’s other works. I think you’ll still be surprised by how things fall out with this one. And it’s especially chilling when you think back to earlier scenes and dialogue. This is a book I definitely want to reread; and I’m sorta hoping there’s a full cast set for audiobook for this because I think it would make for great listening, especially the podcast bits.
There is so much here that is a win. The friendship. The mystery. The podcast. The small town vibes (good and bad). The humour. Uneven Steven. The characters. The facebook jokes. The serious conversations that never felt like TedTalks or lectures. And so much more.
So yeah, I had a wonderful time with this one and I would highly recommend it.
** I received an ARC from Edelweiss+ and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **