Stephanie's Reviews > Dead Time

Dead Time by Anne Cassidy
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's review
Jun 22, 12

bookshelves: young-adult
Read in June, 2012

This review originally appeared at

One day, after school, a group of my school friends and I were waiting for the train at Camberwell station. The girls from my school were huddled together, gigglingly pretending not to notice the boys from the local high school. But it was hard not to notice when one of them nonchalantly pulled out a knife and began jokingly waving it about. We were fortunate that the boy in question was more interested in big-noting himself than actually getting violent, but I still recall that moment with striking clarity.

Like I was, Rose Smith, protagonist of Anne Cassidy's Dead Time, is a private school girl unused to the jostling ways and posturing toughness of the local co-ed school. Unlike me, however, Rose has been thrust into its midst as a transfer student, and the dissimilarities continue from there. While my parents are merely separated, Rose's have disappeared entirely. And where all I saw on the train station that day was a kid fancying himself as a hard man, Rose has witnessed a murder.

Rose, however, is no stranger to death: the likely death of her mother and step-father, who have been missing for years, has long been playing on her mind. Since then, Rose has utterly closed herself off to the idea of loss, seeing such things as a personal weakness: she's affected a tough, almost callously cool image. But there is one weakness in Rose's armour, and that's her step-brother Joshua, who's recently come back on the scene and who is determined to finally uncover the truth behind the disappearance of their parents. And so Rose finds herself attempting to deal with Joshua's decision to reopen the wound that Rose has been avoiding all of these years, but worse, she finds herself a suspect in the murders of two of the students at her new high school.

Dead Time is one of the few young adult mysteries I've come across in some time that doesn't have a paranormal element to it, although for some reason I was expecting one--perhaps the slightly ghostly looking cover led me astray. It's also a strangely circuitous read, and I can't say that I was satisfied by what transpires. Rose is painted as an unlikeable character, something that of course affects a reader's enjoyment of a book, but her prickly, taciturn character also results in the book becoming almost tiresomely circumspect. Her propensity to ignore people or avoid discussing things with them means that there's an ongoing repetition of the interrogative elements--and to be honest, for the majority of the book it feels that things are inching along at the pace of a particularly slow, unpersonable snail. Random note: this is also the second book I've read this week that's used the trope of butterfly tattoos.

The plot, too, is circuitous, but in a way that's more unfocused than intriguing. The murder Rose witnesses, for example, quickly sinks into the background as we become privy to additional layers of mystery and intrigue involving cover-ups, assumed identities, and convenient emails and bits of evident cropping up from the past, and by the end of the book it's difficult to say what the intended main focus of the book. I was dissatisfied with the resolution of the murders of Rose's school peers, and with the resolution of the book overall: it's hard to see this book as much more than a springboard into the rest of the series.

Cassidy's characterisation, however, helps salvage what is otherwise a flat, dull read, and Rose, while difficult to like, is well fleshed-out and believable. Even the minor characters are given the space they need to become more than names on a page, and the reader does get a good sense of the class divide that's part of what separates Rose from those around her. Still, unless Rose grows to be a more sympathetic character, I can't see myself enjoying further books in this series.

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