Poppy McAllister gets dragooned into attending her high school’s 25th reunion by her best friend, Sawyer Montgomery, especially after the pair and their two best friends get cards from Barbie Clark, their biggest enemy from high school in Class Reunions Are Murder by Libby Klein. Since getting widowed six months earlier, Poppy really let herself go, refusing to leave her house except for getting more junk food to gorge on, so she fears facing her former classmates, especially after she gets to her Aunt Ginny’s run-down house and discovers that she can’t fit into any of the dressy clothes she has. The only outfit she can manage to find that fits her is full of feathers and leather, not ideal to impress the people at the reunion.
At the school that night, people are surprised as is usual at most reunions by the ways that people turned out after high school. The man Barbie left at the altar twice is now a highly successful businessman, but she is married to a Congressman running for the Senate. The class prom queen is eight months pregnant, with rumors that she got pregnant to save her marriage after her husband had an affair with Barbie. The clique of cheerleaders who bullied the friends during high school, led by Barbie, resume their old patterns and harass Poppy and Sawyer, ultimately leading to a major fight between Sawyer and Poppy that ends up on the ground and gets recorded by all around them.
Immediately after, Sawyer has an encounter with her ex-husband and takes off. When Poppy goes out a while later, she finds the body of Barbie in front of Poppy’s old high school locker. The man who responds to Poppy’s screams immediately jumps to the conclusion that he has just witnessed Poppy’s committing a murder. Soon everyone is staring at Poppy and accusing her of the murder. Even worse, when Poppy insists they call the police, Amber, Barbie’s partner in bullying, announces that she is the police and takes over the lead of the case. With vindictiveness, she seems determined to prove Poppy’s guilt and arrests her, though the police have to let Poppy go for lack of evidence. But Amber is hard at work to destroy Poppy’s life and do whatever it takes to go after her. This makes Poppy, along with Aunt Ginny and Sawyer, realize they have to work to find the truth.
Who has not experienced nerves and qualms about an upcoming class reunion? Issues of body image, personal achievements, and family all figure into these anxieties. Thus, we can all identify with the premise of Class Reunions Are Murder, which sounds like a realistic point just from the title. The book has a very interesting plot, with all the many twists and turns that keep us guessing, since everyone around Barbie hated her. Poppy overhears someone say that Barbie had slept with every man in their class, either in high school or later, with the exception of one man.
The characters in this book have real life to them, as we get to know each suspect more and more effectively. I especially liked the scene in the jail where Poppy gets a pep talk from two hookers, one a transvestite, about the fact that Poppy has just been feeling sorry for herself when she really has a lot to be thankful for. The depressed, trod-on woman changes into a strong woman determined to stand up for herself. I appreciated the way she becomes a transformed woman and works on her growing strength, but she also shows her humanity in struggling to keep going from time to time. We become really invested in the fear that Poppy might get arrested and that Amber’s vindictiveness might cause her to frame Poppy for the crime.
Callie Beaulieu performs the audio version of Class Reunions Are Murder. I had a good time listening to this book and found it delivered with enjoyable expression and good timing. She truly sounds like Poppy, who narrates the book. I really liked the audio book of this book.
This well-written book deals largely with this issue of popularity and its repercussions on those around them. Along with issues of popularity come issues of bullying, as popular people get perceived as bullying the less popular. On the other hand, we see Amber, part of the popular crowd, feeling hurt by something Poppy did in high school, showing us how easy it is for people to misunderstand each other. This book has a strong message about the way people connect with and understand each other. The message of the book presents interesting introflections and a clever solution. I give this book five stars!
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