This cover is so beautiful, first of all. Let’s get that out of the way.
One Stupid Thing is a contemporary young adult thriller from the writer/musician/college professor Stewart Lewis. Lewis has written quite a few different young adult novels, but this is my first time reading any of his work. I’m always interested in reading works from the Nashville literary scene, especially in contemporary YA. I’m currently querying a YA thriller and writing a YA coming-of-tale story, so I feel like I’m deep in this YA world and always looking for new voices and new reads. Let me know if you have any favorites.
One Stupid Thing has a really intriguing premise and it’s one of the things that drew me to reading this book. Sure, I probably would have read it anyway, since Lewis is a Nashville writer, but the blurb helped.
One Stupid Thing focuses on three friends who spend summers on a Nantucket island. During one of those summers, a tragedy happens that they each believe they are directly responsible for. So, they have a secret. Then they meet a new girl who may have some answers for them. They spend the rest of the novel investigating this tragedy to see what place they really had in the grand narrative.
Honestly, this story was almost really cool. It set up a lot of interesting and intriguing plot points that ultimately either fell flat or petered into something far less interesting. The idea of them sharing this secret sounds fascinating, until you realize they are all so ready to spill the secret to the first person who will listen. And they have to, because that’s how the story progresses.
The actual mystery itself was never very mysterious. I mean, there really is only one villain presented so it’s pretty clear that it probably had something to do with him. Turns out, it did. Maybe the who isn’t supposed to be the mystery, maybe the what or the why is supposed to be the mystery, but that in itself isn’t nearly as interesting. Why the guy did what he did didn’t interest me nearly as much as who possibly could have had a hand in this accident.
When everything is revealed, I found myself thinking “Really? Is that it?” None of it had the impact, the tension, or the umph that I wanted from a good mystery/thriller resolution.
The strength of this novel resides in the subplots. The characters are all coming to terms with who they are, who they are going to be, and what that means for them while dealing with this “mystery.” And that part of this novel was actually pretty great. Though some of it felt stereotypical, I was still invested.
As I said earlier, watching the characters develop and the intricacies of their personal relationships and dynamics was the most fascinating part of this book, however I still don’t think it was quite as good as it could have been.
There wasn’t much tension in really anything. Even in the most dramatic moments, nothing felt real or tense. It all had a ring of predictability, even when I didn’t see it coming. There was one pairing that happened somewhat later in the novel that I didn’t expect. Maybe you can argue it was too fast and out of nowhere, but I don’t think so. It still lacked some kind of impact. Even though I didn’t expect it, I still didn’t care all that much. It was more of a “Oh, cool.” reaction instead of a “WHAT?” kind of reaction.
The characters flirted the line of being deep. At times, they stuck their toes into the deep end before retreating to somewhere safe. A couple more scenes, a little bit more development, and I would have loved these characters. They were almost really good.
Also, there were a few characters that felt a little strange, almost like they didn’t need to be there. One of our main protagonists has a friend who lives on a boat that he drinks beers with sometimes and I still don’t know the point of that character. Maybe Lewis could have done something cool with him, but he didn’t.
The setting is really where One Stupid Thing shines. The island these kids spend time on feels so interesting and deep. Maybe because it is actually based on a real place that Stewart Lewis spent time growing up. He knows that island and the social dynamics of it. I think that enabled him to add serious depth to this place.
Instead of simply being a town the story can take place in, which so often happens with YA thrillers, the island felt like a character all it’s own. It almost interacted with the characters. It forced them to think about things differently, to do things in a different way than they might have if they were in NYC.
Also, it felt deep. There were established social dynamics that undercut every situation. There were established norms and societies. None of it was forced or strange, it all fit.
I loved this setting and I’d be very interested to read more books like it.
One Stupid Thing was the almost book for me. So many parts of it were almost great or could have been great if one or two things were done differently. So many interesting things were set up that either didn’t resolve in an interesting way or completely dropped. The characters were almost cool, but fell short. The setting alone wasn’t enough to save it.
All in all, I didn’t think this was terrible but I didn’t think it was great. I’m not upset that I read it, but I don’t think I’ll spend too much time thinking about it. I read it, didn’t regret reading it, but I have no plans to revisit the story.
I think I’ll give it a 2.5 out of 5.