Cover image for The underdogs
The underdogs
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, c2016.
Physical Description:
310 pages ; diagrams ; 22 cm.
Reading Level:
840 L Lexile
"A shy, overweight 12-year-old & her best friend take on the case of a popular 16-year-old who died mysteriously leading to a breathtaking surprise twist"--


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Who killed Annabel Harper?

When a popular teen beauty's body is discovered by the pool at an elite tennis club, the regulars are shocked--especially twelve-year-old Evie and her best friend, Chelsea. While everyone else is haunted by the teen's death, Evie and Chelsea jump on the case, dogging the footsteps of the lead detective as he investigates. As temperatures soar over the summer, tensions rise, fingers are pointed, and a heroic act sets in motion a chain of events readers will never see coming.

In the tradition of The Westing Game comes this debut mystery with a breathtaking twist.

Author Notes

Sara Hammel is a former ranked tennis player and an award-winning journalist with more than fifteen years' experience writing for major publications including People , The Sunday Times Magazine (UK), U.S. News & World Report, Glamour, and Shape.

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-10-The big reveal in this mystery is not who murdered golden girl Annabel Harper at an exclusive Massachusetts tennis club-though that's startling enough. No, there's actually a far bigger surprise. In alternating chapters, narrator Chelsea fills readers in on all that happened the weeks before Annabel was found dead by the side of the club's pool, and after, as a local detective examined motives and opportunities among rising teen tennis stars, rich kids, and club personnel. Annabel was a fixture at the club, where her older brother was a lifeguard, and was especially nice to Chelsea and her best friend, Evie. Beautiful and sweet, Annabel attracted a great deal of attention and jealousy. But who could have disliked her enough to murder her? As with most good cozies, the suspects are numerous and the detective is tenacious. He has to be-as Evie and Chelsea follow him around and make dangerous discoveries on their own. Meanwhile, Evie, who is teased for being overweight, discovers she has a natural gift for tennis, though her tennis pro father seems not to notice. Readers learn more about Chelsea's mysterious and abusive past before the club's manager adopted her. The plot is well-thought-out, and though there isn't a great deal of character development, except in Evie's case, there doesn't have to be for this mystery to score. VERDICT Once they get to the end, mystery lovers will want to go back and read it all again to find the hidden clues.-Marie Drucker, Malverne Public Library, NY © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Evie, 12, and her best friend Chelsea, spend their summers on the periphery of the social scene at the tony New England pool/tennis club where their parents work. Both from single-parent homes, the girls bond over being social outcasts because of their physical differences. Evie is shy and slightly overweight while Chelsea is still recovering from the abuse she suffered years before being adopted by her mother, Beth. The girls usually spend their summers hiding in the cool, dark corners of the club eating snacks, but this year is different. Evie begins to secretly train to play tennis, and 16-year-old Annabel Harper, the golden girl of the club, is found murdered at the pool. Determined to discover who could do this to a young woman both girls admired, Evie and Chelsea decide to help the police solve the crime. Told from Chelsea's perspective in chapters that alternate before and after Annabel's murder, debut novelist Hammel cleverly disguises Chelsea's true identity, leaving that mystery for readers to solve just as the girls pinpoint Annabel's killer. Ages 10-14. Agent: Steven Chudney, Chudney Agency. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

Best friends try to figure out who murdered a pretty 16-year-old girl at a tennis club. Evie, 12, and her best friend, narrator Chelsea, spend their summer hanging out together at the Boston-area tennis club where Evie's father works as a tennis pro and Chelsea's mother manages the desk. Both are wounded souls with distressing back stories. Evie, who's fat and bullied, is living with her indifferent dad because her mother deserted her; Chelsea was horrifically abused before being adopted. Because both protagonists are club fixtures and largely invisible to the campers and elite tennis players, they manage to secretly shadow the detective responsible for solving the murder and the various suspects as well. A strong subplot concerns Evie's transformation from a fat, angry outcast to a thinner tennis whiz. About halfway through the novel, readers should begin to notice various discrepanciesthings that don't quite scan or make complete sense. This feeling continues to increase until the end, when a doozy of a revelation changes the way readers perceive everything that came before. The twist is not 100-percent fair, and there will be a few pages of puzzlement before readers get the aha, but it certainly clears up the incongruities. Chelsea describes the people around her, mostly white, but she avoids touching on her own appearance, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions. The novel is absorbing and enjoyable, but readers' feelings about this oddball mystery/life-transformation hybrid will depend on whether they're delighted or annoyed by the surprise ending. (Mystery. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Set at an elite tennis club in Massachusetts, this debut murder mystery straddles a fine line between being clever and being a cheat; readers will have to decide for themselves if the reveal at the end is rewarding or exasperating. The facts of the case are this: on August 4, popular teenager Annabel is found dead by the pool. Twelve-year-old Evie, with help from her silent best friend Chelsea, tries to crack the case. But nothing is as it seems. The story, told from Chelsea's point of view, alternates between Before and After chapters, a technique that can detract from the mystery. But the mystery is secondary to Evie's story, which includes bullying, parental neglect, and issues of self-image. Chelsea, too, has suffered terrible abuse. The mystery format and Harriet the Spy antics keep the story from being bogged down by the heavy issues addressed, though the book's lighthearted tone does at times seem flip. Still, this is a book that takes a chance and will genuinely surprise readers.--Dean, Kara Copyright 2016 Booklist