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Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco

by Richard Narvaez

Kirkus A teen mystery set in an elite public school in 1970s New York City. When two faculty members of the prestigious Flatbush Technical High School are murdered, bright freshman Holly Hernández is immediately on the case, her amateur sleuthing skills honed by her love for crime novels and the example set by her homicide detective mother. Meanwhile, Xander Herrera is a socially awkward but equally astute student who finds himself regarded as the initial suspect; his determination to prove his innocence is nearly as great as his need to beat the insufferably perky Holly to the punch and solve the mystery first. What neither of them expects is to be embroiled in a lethal disco contest at the infamous Mission Venus nightclub in Manhattan. The novel alternates between Holly’s and Xander’s perspectives as the danger mounts and the two investigate the case in parallel. This fast-paced, skillfully developed murder mystery offers equal billing to both characters, their separate lives, and their individual problems while also examining gender inequality and social injustice and providing an interesting look at the history of disco as a safe place for queer people and people of color. Part of the novel’s charm is that Xander sees Holly as his nemesis while Holly is blissfully oblivious to the boy’s competitive feelings. Holly, Xander, and their families are Latinx. A fun murder mystery with a side of disco fever. (Mystery. 12-18) Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list This twist on the classic whodunit brings to life the end times of disco as two early ‘80s–New York City teenagers attempt to unravel a cryptic murder that has rocked their high school. Holly is a determined, brilliant junior detective following in her mother’s footsteps, while quietly intelligent Xander struggles with his complicated family situation. When the crime causes them to cross paths, they must end their rivalry and team up to keep their school safe. Narvaez’s characters are genuine and intriguing: Holly, with her meticulous, scientific approach; Xander, who marvels over his abuela’s cooking but avoids his estranged mother. As the clock winds down and the killer prepares to strike, Narvaez expertly juggles several parallel plots: Holly and Xander’s search for the perpetrator, Xander’s stint in juvie, Holly’s mother’s career life. From glittery discotheques to strange passages between classrooms, mystical mysteries are infused into a fun, historical murder case that takes a fresh approach to teenage angst, anxiety, and the need to belong.

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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