Trouble is a Friend of Mine is an intriguing and addictive book, written by Stephanie Tromly.
The first time Zoe meets Digby, he’s rude and treats her like a book he’s already read and knows the ending to. But before she knows it, Zoe has allowed Digby – annoying, brilliant and somehow.. attractive? – to drag her into a series of hilarious, dangerous and vaguely legal schemes all related to the kidnapping of a local teenage girl. A kidnapping that might be connected to the tragic disappearance of Digby’s little sister eight years ago. When it comes to Digby, Zoe just can’t say no.
But is Digby really a hero? Or is his manic quest simply an attempt to relieve the guilt from that fateful day eight years ago? Whatever the answer is, does Zoe really care?
I didn’t know how much I was going to enjoy reading Trouble is a Friend of Mine until I picked it up. I found that it had many similar aspects to the Every series by Ellie Marney, which was great, because I love that series! I feel in love with Zoe and Digby and their interesting friendship. The thing that kept me reading this book wasn’t the mystery, it was actually wanting to know what would happen between these two teenagers. As far as crime and mysteries go, Trouble is a Friend of Mine definitely isn’t intense or hardcore. It’s definitely towards the lighter end of that scale. This book was cute and quirky and filled with a ton of fun dialogue.
While I liked getting to know the main characters, I have to admit that they were relatively stereotypical. Let’s talk about Zoe for a moment. I found it really easy to connect with her. She’s a girl struggling to define who she is, particularly now that she’s living farther away form her overbearing father and she’s starting to realise that perhaps her mother isn’t as clueless than she thinks. I loved watching the relationship with her mother grow. In the beginning, Zoe didn’t think her mother had much of an idea as to what Zoe’s life was like and how things were going for her, but the more I read, the more I realised that her mother was pretty clued up about things and cared deeply for Zoe, even if Zoe didn’t realise it at first. Another thing that I liked about Zoe was watching her become more of a strong and brave character – and not only in the ways that you’d expect. Yes, her courage grew as she did more crazy and adventurous things with Digby, but that wasn’t the only way she grew. In the end, some of the decisions she made to stand up to various people would have taken a lot of bravery, and I commend her for that. I loved watching her grow from a somewhat timid and malleable teenager into such a strong-willed young woman.
The thing that I didn’t like about Zoe that much was the fact that she was so one-dimensional for almost the entirely of the novel. She was the type of person that was always so dry and cynical and while that’s interesting initially, her attitude really carved out her stereotype. She was the type of girl that didn’t like ‘other girls’. She was also such a push-over; she was willing to do anything for other people as long as it made them happy. I also found that she didn’t have any aspirations besides getting out of her new town and going to a fancy private school so that she would get into Princeton. I would have liked to have seen her character change more throughout the book and not just at the very end. A more gradual transition between her initial personality and the person she became would have been more believable too.
Okay, so you should know that I can’t help but fall for book boys who would never exist in real life because of how unrealistic they are. Augustus Waters, Will Herondale – prime examples. Digby was more of a Will Herondale-type character. He was mysterious, somewhat brooding, deeply flawed – but also extremely kind, loyal and willing to sacrifice himself for those he loves. He was the type of person that you know can’t possibly exist, but you can’t help rooting for them anyway and hoping they end up with the other main character. Another thing that I liked about him was how random he was. Like, he’d dress up as a bear and just appear in Zoe’s house – though not at the same time. He would always turn up in the most unexpected of places and every time he made another appearance, I would always laugh. I found myself constantly on the edge of my seat, waiting for him to pop up out of nowhere and start planning another adventurous evening with Zoe. The conversations between him and Zoe were always enjoyable to read and there were a lot of swoon-worthy moments in the novel.
Digby is basically a young Sherlock Holmes, just like Mycroft in Every Breath. I love both of these characters, but Digby just felt too unrealistic at times. The things he deducted things were not normal for a teenager, but I suppose that’s what made him special. As much as I loved spending time with him, I found Digby a little hard to relate to. But there was one thing about him that made me dislike the way he was written. I love complex character and characters with issues, but Digby’s issues were straight-up concerning. There’s a scene when Digby is having a panic attack and he is telling Zoe all the medication he was prescribed. It becomes apparent that Digby has some kind of mental illness, but this matter never gets pursued. Zoe actually seems indifferent about it and doesn’t seem to care that he doesn’t want to take the medication that was specifically prescribed to make his life easier. I can understand where Digby was coming from, but that doesn’t mean that you have to disregard someone’s mental health just because they think they can manage. I felt like this book slightly made mental health problems seem simplistic because it was implied that if you get things you want in life, all your existing problems will just vanish. I would have liked to have seen Digby’s mental health explored more and for it to be done with honestly and more of an insight into what mental illnesses are really like – and that you can’t turn them on and off like a switch.
Sadly, I wasn’t all that keen on the supporting characters. If I made it seem like Zoe and Digby were somewhat one-dimensional, these characters were less than that. They were zero-dimensional. I know I probably should have paid more attention in science class because that doesn’t sound right, but it’s what I feel in my heart. Just roll with it. Anyways, these characters were very simplistic. They were like the characters in The Breakfast Club when they all turn up at school first thing in the morning. They were so fixed in their own mindsets and it was disappointing that I didn’t get to see much of a change with them. There were minimal improvements with them in the end, but not enough that it redeemed them for their lack of intrigue in the beginning. For how dull they were, I was surprised I even learnt their names.
If you’re looking for a serious crime/mystery YA novel, this one is not your best idea. The overall plot is rather uncomplicated and the ‘big reveal’ of the ‘bad guy’ was expected. However, it was a fun read and I enjoyed being taken on an adventure with Digby and Zoe. Despite all its flaws, I ended up really enjoying this book. It was addictive and intriguing. By the end of the book, I was still craving more. But overall, I was happy with the way things turned out, even if they were a little cheesy. Overall, I’d give Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly a score of 7.5 out of 10. A little simplistic, but an enjoyable and funny read. So let’s hear your thoughts! Have you heard of this book? Are you a fan of Sherlock Holmes or BBC’s Sherlock? Do you like crime/mystery books? I’d love to know 🙂
Thank you to Hot Key Books Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!