The author Lamar Giles has written a third young adult novel, Overturned. Like his other two books, Endangered, and Fake ID the central character in this mystery is an African American teenager. There is no cliche’ urban language in this novel. Giles does not dumb down his story for the young adult market. His characters are fully developed and respond to their life stress in believable terms. These are characters the reader will instantly connect with. You will care about them and in Overturned there is ample reason to be concerned.
Nikki the main character is a teenage girl who lives upstairs over the small casino in Las Vegas owned by her parents. She has become the unofficial proprietor of the casino since her dad was charged with murder a couple years ago and sentenced to the death penalty. Her mom having no head for business was running the casino into the ground. So it fell on Nikki to keep the books, hire and fire, order the food and supplies for the restaurant and casino, answer the mail. Sometimes even though she is underage she is the waitress taking drink orders from the patrons of the casino.
Nikki also goes to high school every day, plays on the soccer team and does her homework. At night and on the weekends she sneaks away to have illegal card games. She is a pro card player with a mission: save enough money to run away to college with her two best friends Molly and Gavin. She has saved a decent amount of her winnings, but not as much as she needs. Her best friends have athletic scholarships to attend college. Nikki is good at soccer but not good enough to get a scholarship. So Molly and Gavin help her run the illegal card games. Nikki is desperate to get away from running the family business. She feels burdened with a responsibility that seems very unfair to her.
In a surprise move her fathers’ conviction for murder is overturned and he is released from death row to come home. Nikki wonders what this means for her family and the business. But her father immediately returns to his past activity of risky behaviors in Las Vegas and this time includes his daughter. When there’s a murder at the casino the world Nikki knows is flipped and much more dangerous.
Overturned is an excellent read. Lamar Giles is an outstanding writer and gives the young adult /adult reading audience a page-turner of a mystery. No one reading this novel will be disappointed. The cover of Overturned is gender neutral and as such may encourage young males interested in mysteries to pick up the novel and read it.
Iris M. Kirkwood is a poet and visual artist who lives in Buffalo, NY. (http://imkirkwood.webs.com/)