Title: Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless
Author: Liz Czukas
Publisher: Harper Teen
Top Five Things That Are Ruining Chloe’s Day
5) Working the 6:30 a.m. shift at GoodFoods Market
4) Crashing a cart into a customer’s car right in front of her snarky coworker Sammi
3) Trying to rock the “drowned rat” look after being caught in a snowstorm
2) Making zero progress with her crush, Tyson (see #3)
1) Being accused—along with her fellow teenage employees—of stealing upwards of $10,000
Chloe would rather be anywhere than locked in work jail (aka the break room) with five of her coworkers . . . even if one of them is Tyson. But if they can band together to clear their names, what looks like a total disaster might just make Chloe’s list of Top Ten Best Moments.
I had heard some pretty good things about Liz Czukas’s debut, Ask Again Later, but it wasn’t until I saw this book that I wanted to check out her work – the summary just appealed to me more. Now that I’ve read and loved this book, though, I’m definitely interested in checking out anything else Czukas has written!
Things started off slightly slow, but that might have been because I was also reading another book and I was nearing the end and getting to the really good stuff, which distracted me slightly. Even at the beginning, though, when I was a little confused about who the characters were and their personalities, the story was already drawing me in and I might have finished it even sooner if I didn’t want to finish my other book first. That might sound like a slight against this book, but I swear it’s not! Since this is a fairly short book – just under 300 pages, so definitely not one of the longest YA books I’ve ever encountered – things got started pretty quickly. Well, the character stuff got started pretty quickly – the mystery part actually didn’t really come into play until nearly halfway through, which did surprise me a bit.
The mystery really isn’t the focus of this book – instead, the bonding between all the “Younglings,” or the six teenagers working at this grocery store, was much more important, and that was definitely okay with me. There really isn’t much to the plot when you think about it – they spend the majority of the book working or waiting for the cops to finally show up so that everything can be dealt with – but the character-driven fun made sure that I didn’t focus on whether there was a strong plot or not, which is its own form of a plot, right?
As I’ve already mentioned, the characters are definitely the best part of this book. There’s the main character, Chloe, who’s a fairly shy, red-headed diabetic (yes, the diabetic part is quite important – and it was nice to get that perspective, since protagonists so rarely have anything really wrong with them); there’s Tyson, Chloe’s crush who is black and struggling to raise money for college; Sammi, a small, snarky girl who has apparently been forced to dodge questions about her sexuality a lot; Zaina, a shy and beautiful girl from the Middle East; Gabe, a seemingly carefree rich boy; and Micah, a super-smart and homeschooled boy. And yes, all of these things, from race to sexuality to other personality traits, are pretty important, since there are many different conversations the group has where they confront their feelings and assumptions and even unrealized prejudices that they have. This aspect of the story is probably the main reason that I’ve seen so many people compare the book to The Breakfast Club, although there are certainly other similarities.
The mystery really isn’t that big a point. I guess I kind of assumed that much of the plot would revolve around this ragtag group trying to solve the mystery of who stole the charity money, which is the reason they’re stuck staying after hours at the grocery store in the first place, but it really wasn’t much of a focus. It was wrapped up pretty easily near the end, but I didn’t mind because I was much more interested in the characters and their bonding than figuring out who did it (and I actually did guess, although I didn’t really have any proof, just a feeling that I knew who had done it).
The Adult Situation
Many of the kids have their parents looming over their head in someway, but because they’re at their place of work after hours and the two adult supervisors aren’t spending too much time with them, there isn’t a large adult presence – but it didn’t seem like a cop-out or anything. All of the kids are at least sixteen since they’re working, and as Gabe likes pointing out multiple times, he’s eighteen and no longer a minor, so they’re very much at a point in their life when they’re all trying to think for themselves and grow out of the role of a child, so it worked for the story.
The romance was the biggest thing that I didn’t care for, simply because I don’t think it had the time to develop with everything else going on. Chloe has a crush on Tyson, the sweet guy that she works with, but she can’t work up the courage to do anything about it. After reading and watching so many romance tropes, I thought that Chloe might end up with snarky Gabe by the end of the book, or even sweet and smart Micah, but I was obviously thinking into it too much. No, Chloe remains loyal to her feelings toward Tyson, and then kick into high gear at the very end, but it didn’t quite feel as genuine because I don’t think the book needed the romance that much. There were so many relationships being built in this book that throwing in a romance was less interesting, at least for me. I liked Tyson a lot, and it was nice seeing a biracial relationship, but I just didn’t care about it as much as the many friendships this book had.
As I already mentioned a bit, things seemed slightly rushed at the end. The mystery was suddenly solved and everyone was headed off to their families for Christmas Eve festivities. I think the main reason it felt rushed was because I just wanted more with the whole group – basically, I need another story with them where they’re just having fun! There doesn’t have to be some big mystery or problem, I just wanted the chance to hang out with them all again, and so the ending would have felt like it came too soon for me no matter what.
I’m really glad with my first Czukas book! I already planned on reading her new adult debut after reading some good things about it, but now I also want to check out her YA debut and see if I enjoy it as much as this one. I’ll be keeping an eye out for any future Czukas books as well!
Oh, and completely unrelated, but am I the only blogger who always thinks of Top Ten Tuesday when I’m trying to remember the title of this book? Or is that just me who apparently can’t shut off the blogger part of her mind?