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Reviewed by Lit Amri for Readers' Favorite
Cedar Springs High students Zelda, Sabrina, Andrew, Gabby, and Justin are the ones everyone around them－peers, parents, and teachers－deem as lost causes, which rightly gives this YA mystery thriller its title. Two undercover FBI agents, Ryan Nash and Patricia Nichols, summoned them to a ‘group-therapy program’, where the teens drink a special serum that erases their problems and gives each of them a psychic ability. In return, they must track a killer who murdered one of their town residents.
Despite the premise of The Lost Causes by Jessica Etting and Alyssa Schwartz being slightly formulaic, it’s executed well through the well-paced plot. Characterization is the main strength of the story for me, where each of the characters and their relationships are given enough room to grow. It’s interesting how they adjust to their new abilities and working together to solve the murder case. It’s a play on irony; Justin Diaz, a football player with anger issues, has the ability of psychokinesis or moving physical objects using the mind, while OCD Gabby Dahl’s ability is retro-cognition, or triggering visions of the past by touching objects. I do relate more to the smart but gloomy Zelda or Z, who’s able to read people’s thoughts. Personally, I find Andrew Foreman, the hypochondriac turned genius, has the best deal out of it, but strangely proves his worth differently.
The narrative has a solid clarity and is engaging. There are good moments of humor, camaraderie, and suspense. The proposed mystery is intricate, thrilling and perplexing, making the story a page-turner. YA romance is expected, although I’m ambivalent about a certain romantic relationship between two characters. On the whole, The Lost Causes is surprisingly a gratifying read. Despite being a YA imprint, older readers can enjoy it as well.