Spin by Lamar Giles

Review by Jennifer Irvine

Scholastic Press, February 1, 2019

400 pages, hardcover, $23.99 CAD, ISBN:  978-1-338-21921-0

Age 12+, Grades 8+

Young Adult, Contemporary Realism, Mystery

Her keys clacked. “You didn’t find DJ ParSec’s body?”

“I did. But so did Fuse. She was there first.” Fuse’s car had been the first thing I noticed when my Lyft pulled up. I watched her walk into the warehouse. Was halfway through the door myself, when I heard her scream.

Florian said, “Now that’s interesting. It’s something none of the other sites will have. That’s not even in the news. What did she look like?”


“No. What did DJ ParSec look like when you found her?”

The question hit me like ice water. “Dead. She looked dead.”

Those clacking keys again.

In this mystery, IT nerd Kya Caine and social media expert Fuse Fallon are bitter rivals for Paris Secord, famously known as DJ ParSec’s, attention. Then, 16-year-old ParSec is found lying dead on her turntable and Kya and Fuse happen to both be at the murder scene. After an all-out social media war between them, the two are forced to put their differences aside and try to solve the mystery behind the murder of a talented musician on the edge of super-stardom. Told from both Kya and Fuse’s points of view, as well as flashbacks to ParSec’s life and thoughts before she died, this is a thriller with plenty of personal struggles mixed in.

Kya Caine belongs to the Smart Ones, a coding club at Cooke High in Virginia. That is, until the three other club members are killed in a car accident. Now with Paris dead, Kya asks herself, “How much grief, on average, does it take to break a person?” Add life with a single mother raising her with no money, her character faces death, grief, poverty, and racism; Giles weaves these tough, relatable issues around a solid mystery.

In complete contrast, Fatima Fallon, aka Fuse, comes from a wealthy, educated family with a doctor for a dad who doesn’t want his daughter to be anywhere near her low-brow classmates. He has gone as far as to make a deal with the teachers, forcing Fuse to sit in the front row by herself until the end of the school year when she will transfer to a better school. Fuse was ParSec’s most devoted groupie and creator of the fan club ParSec Nation, promoting ParSec’s music with her social media skills.

The two enemies are forced to put their differences aside when DarkNation, a group of obsessive ParSec followers, put an almost violent amount of pressure on them to find the killer. Kya and Fuse are wonderful role models for creating a solid female friendship illustrating how young women can turn differences into positive opportunities to lean on each other. Their dangerous investigation forces them to take on cops and the shady music business as they learn about what led up to ParSec’s death while putting their own safety in jeopardy.

I particularly liked the dark power of social media being exposed through dangerous rumours, outright lies, extreme nastiness, and creepy fandom. To emphasize the downside of social networking, there is Florian Dominguez, a relentless Twitter feeder who harasses Kya for salacious details on ParSec’s murder scene, including what her dead body looked like. It’s a realistic portrayal of what often happens when you become an “internet sensation” on platforms including Facebook and Twitter, without being moralistic.

Spin is an intense, readable mystery with three-dimensional characters whose lives are complicated and full of relatable issues often being played out with the power of social media. If you enjoyed Let Me Hear a Rhyme” by Tiffany D. Jackson, you’ll love Spin.

Jennifer Irvine has grown fond of reading middle grade and YA books during her time in the BFA Creative Writing program. Her own writing began with memoir, but she is now exploring middle grade and speculative fiction.

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