Thanks to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Everyone likes Chris Goodman. Sure he’s a little odd. He wears those funny bell-bottoms and he really likes the word ennui and he shakes your hand when he meets you, but he’s also the kind of guy who’s always up for a good time, always happy to lend a hand. Everybody likes Chris Goodman, which makes it especially shocking when he’s murdered. Here, in a stunning multi-voiced narrative including the perspective of the fifteen-year-old killer and based on a true and terrible crime that occurred when he was in high school, author Allan Wolf sets out to answer the first question that comes to mind in moments of unthinkable tragedy: how could a thing like this happen?
Who Killed Christopher Goodman is the first book I’ve read by Allan Wolf. I started it about 4:00 yesterday afternoon and finished it just after 11:00 last night. This wasn’t because it had a fast pace however. It was more that I found myself skimming through it. Right now I’m feeling so guilty about not liking it more, mainly because the story is based on the murder of a friend and classmate of the author’s, back in 1979. The story mainly focuses on the events leading up to the murder from the perspective of six of the characters. They’re stereotypical of characters found in most coming-of-age novels: Sweet shy girl, football player, disabled genius, likable boy next door, juvenile delinquent, etc. The problem is their voices are indistinguishable from one another. There are definitely signs of the possibility of deeper depth being given to them such as the football player being an animal lover and amateur taxidermist, but the author never completely follows through. I think part of the problem is this book is too short to support this kind of story with so many voices. It alternates so fast between the teens that you’re never able to establish a connection with any of them. Ironically, the one character who I found fascinating was the murder victim, Christopher Goodman, but we never hear from him. There are only these tantalizing glimpses of him through the others’ eyes, which was disappointing. The author does a fabulous job capturing the setting and nuances of a small town nearing the end of the 1970s though. From the clothes, to the cars, and the music, I was instantly transported back in time. And for all the faults I found with the book, I’m glad I kept reading because the author’s afterword touched me in a way the story did not. Wolf talks about how the death of his friend has haunted him his entire life, until finally he felt like he had to write this book. It’s emotional and beautiful, and had me tearing up a bit. Okay. Now I feel even more horrible. I have to be honest though and say, Who Killed Christopher Goodman is a promising story, but ultimately unsatisfying.