With "This is W.A.R.," sister authors Lisa Roecker and Laura Roecker manage to take a familiar theme and write a mystery with enough interesting characters and twists to keep the reader hooked to the end.
In the first two pages, Willa Ames-Rowan (W.A.R.) dies -- drowned by a person unknown. It's the 4th of July, and slowly, throughout the book, the story of that night is told from different viewpoints until the whole ugly story becomes clear.
Willa and her friends live in a wealthy enclave on Hawthorne Lake with a clubhouse where the residents mingle, drink and have affairs. The wealthiest family on Hawthorne Lake is the Gregory family, consisting of the Captain and his two grandsons, James and Trip. Both grandsons are spoiled, arrogant teenagers who take what they want regardless of whether it is freely offered.
Everyone knows that James Gregory, the oldest twin, killed Willa. He left with her from the Captain's yacht the night of the 4th of July and returned alone, drunk. However, no one is talking. The policeman assigned to the case is incompetent. His wife works at the clubhouse. His daughter (Rose) hangs out at the club but is friendlier with the staff than with the residents.
The girls at the club take their wealth and lifestyle for granted. They don't think of the staff at the club as people, rather as creatures whose sole purpose is to give them what they want. This attitude extends to the Gregory family, who are notorious for taking liberties with the help -- and if the help complains, or if anyone complains, that person is shipped out and not seen again.
Once Willa is dead, her three best friends, including her stepsister, and a fourth addition to the group, Rose, decide to avenge her death. They call their plan W.A.R. for Willa's initials. And they plot. And they plan. Rose, because of her ability to look at her father's police files, becomes necessary.
As the story progresses, the different personalities of the girls emerge. One girl is of low intellect (shameful when her parents are both high-achieving physicians who hide their only daughter's lack of brilliance). Another rebels from her parents' overt lack of care by getting tattoo after tattoo. Madge, the stepsister of Willa, is the most avid revenge-seeker. Rose, who has strong feelings for James in spite of his alleged crime, wants to help get justice for Willa.
Of course, any mystery reader will know that because James is assumed to be the killer, he isn't. It's not a huge mystery, but it's a fun mystery. And YA readers will enjoy meeting the various characters and watching them change as they meet and deal with others from different social strata.
One fault in the book is that the beginning is definitely slow; but the spotlight shining on the lifestyle and problems of the rich and famous (or just the rich) makes for enjoyable reading. Is justice that different for the extremely wealthy? Read this novel and think about it.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, SOHO Teen, for review purposes.
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