Sketchy Behavior by Erynn Mangum

by Kat Alexander

Sixteen-year-old Kate Carter loves two things: Crispix cereal and art. Average by most counts, Kate is a fantastic sketch artist, which comes into play when she sketches up a murderer. In an art class activity. On accident. The simple sketch throws her into a dangerous situation when the local news can’t get enough of the story… and neither can the criminal she’s put behind bars. Did I mention he’s a murderer? With friends?

I started Sketchy Behavior on a road trip and finished it two states later, having read almost continuously the whole time. Not only is it a page turner (not quite impossible to put down, but it’s a fair sight quicker than The Odyssey), but I absolutely adore Kate. Sarcastic and witty, she’s a good narrator to have around, dropping TV and movie references every couple pages (“I’d never been to prison, but I kind of imagined it would look more like Alcatraz than the set from The Office.”) and generally making light of the situation, which could be a bit of a downer.

There are some things that bother me – loose ends that never really fit in. For instance, Kate every now and then refers to some dating instance that shall never be spoken of again—something involving a guy named Kyle that is barely referred to after the beginning of the book and is never explained. I mean, with the threat of death, it’s pretty easy to forget about that little thing, but it still irked me. Kate obviously cared—why don’t we ever get to hear the juicy details, since it’s hung over our heads for an age? And then there’s the way the book starts, with Kate’s friend Maddy contemplating jumping off a small cliff into a five-foot “river” (really an overlarge creek). It’s a nice, dramatic way to start up the book—all in media res like my lovely English teacher taught us in eighth grade. But the incident is over-the-top and unique to the one situation—it feels like the author tried to think of the most dramatic way to start the book and then just went for it, even if the incident doesn’t really jive with the other two hundred some-odd pages of the novel.

Still, Sketchy Behavior is a fun read. It’s really interesting to read about criminal sketch artists, even for someone with zero artistic ability, and the inherent suspense of Kate-could-be-killed kept me reading straight through. The characters are definitely the high point—Kate, obviously, but also minor characters like Silent Justin from her art class and DJ, the policeman assigned to keep her safe—and the low points, aren’t terribly distracting. Sketchy Behavior is relatively straightforward until the twisty-turny ending, and I’d recommend reading it if you happen across it—but don’t try and think too hard, ‘kay?


Kat Alexander is a Figment Reviewer who (clearly) loves to read and comment. She’s active on a number of sites including NaNo, Fiction Press, and FanFiction under aneko24.

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