My Father Didn’t Kill Himself by Russell Nohelty is written as a series of blog posts and that alone makes it different. It is not as if a couple of teenagers wanted to write blog posts detailing a murder mystery. A teacher had assigned students to write and maintain a personal blog about their activities during their final year. Once the almost unidentified teacher makes the assignment, he disappears. Alex and Delilah will have bad things to say about the teacher and his assignment idea, but he will not interfere with the result, the blog posts we are reading. Putting myself in the teacher’s position, I would have been shocked, dismayed, and scared to see these two blogs with their content of a possible murder mystery and the on-going disintegration of two families. Scared because of possible legal problems a teacher could find him or herself in when not reporting certain confidences to proper authorities. The fear that this teacher had, one of a failed prom, doesn’t compare but it is another element of the story.
Delilah has a father who she adores. Her mother is cool also, but Delilah is daddy’s girl. The family seems to always have enough money to do what they want. Delilah doesn’t see anything unusual in their spending habits. That will come later. Not a social recluse but also not desiring popularity, Delilah welcomes the support of Alex in social situations. This is good because, after the death of her father, Delilah becomes insufferable by withdrawing from society and developing a Goth persona.
Alex has a family she never sees. There are two parents, but they are always away somewhere on a globe-trotting vacation. They provide Alex with plenty of money; she is aware they are wealthy. Even so, she shouldn’t have to fund the prom for the entire school, but that is a story later developed. Alex is popular in school. Maybe that has to do with her money, but she does seem to have a good relationship with everyone. She can use her popularity to shield Delilah from being looked down upon.
Delilah’s ideal father drops dead at home. The body is found soon after and police deem it a suicide. This is the worst of luck for the Clark family because insurance doesn’t pay off for suicides. All the debt that supported their previous lifestyle, expensive clothes, expensive food budgets, and a heavily mortgaged house must be serviced from an income that is not there. Delilah’s mother, Kendra, descends into an alcohol-filled state of grief over dead husband Tom. That doesn’t pay the bills.
Delilah is convinced her father did not commit suicide despite a police officer ruling. She pesters the police. She looks for clues everywhere. She sees and overhears things that lead her to make assumptions that lead to some bizarre attempts at obtaining proof. She tests her theories on Alex and depends on Alex to follow her lead in some questionable schemes to obtain evidence of proof of Tom’s murder. The pair break into offices seeking documentary evidence. They break into homes for the same purpose. Alex is reluctant to do these things but as she watches Delilah sinking into madness, she feels an obligation to help her friend.
The book has several endings. The ending of the murder mystery, even the question of whether it was murder, has a surprise. Then there are the endings related to the characters. Kendra, Delilah’s mom, and Alex’s friend makes a substantial change. Tom, Delilah’s father, remains dead. Delilah “wakes up” from her unsociability, almost. Alex remains a mystery, but the reader can make some assumptions. It is neither a feel-good ending nor a tragic one.
A lot of the believability and interesting stuff in this book is due to Nohelty’s creative use of dialogue and language. Most would consider it a YA book and then become horrified at the reality of Jelly Bracelets. That will wake up a few parents. And yes, they (and the signaled practices) do exist and in several forms, not only bracelets.
I gave this five Amazon stars due to what I consider a unique story presentation as well as a realistic representation of high school angst.
At the end of the book, there is a fifteen-minute film by Russell Nohelty in which he answers reader questions and comments on how the novel evolved. Evolved is the right word as the novel started out as a screenplay, changed into a first-person novel, and came to rest with contrasting POV of two protagonists, Alexis and Delilah. Sometimes they helped each other and sometimes less so. This is almost an inspirational video clip to watch although that may not have been Nohelty’s objective. There are links to follow, one of which leads to an Amazon page where I was disappointed to not find an Author page for Noehlty. I did not buy the book for USD 4.99 from Amazon because I found it on Instafreebie.