The Agathas: A Modern Whodunit -
Independent Reading for Young Adults
The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson is a fast-moving and fun book for teenagers! I really enjoyed reading this story and am looking forward to the next one coming out in May 2023.
The Agathas is the story of two teenage girls, both dealing with their own issues. The first, Alice, a wealthy and formerly popular student, is fresh off house arrest for her unexplained five day disappearance over the summer (does this maybe remind you of Agatha Christie’s famous disappearance?!). Her “friends” aren’t speaking to her and her ex-boyfriend and former best friend are now happily in love.
The second is Iris, a smart and determined student who is trying to earn enough money to get her mother away from the town of Castle Cove.
At the very beginning of the story we learn that Iris is going to tutor Alice to help her catch up with her studies after her bout with house arrest. Neither of the girls are happy with the arrangement.
However, when a girl dies in Castle Cove, Alice and Iris both have reasons to want to solve it. They become an unlikely pair of detectives and lead us on a Christie-esque adventure.
This young adult novel is an excellent choice for independent reading in the high school classroom!
Check out this (very short) official trailer for The Agathas:
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The Agathas Is an Entertaining Read!
I wholeheartedly enjoyed this story and I think my students will too! Here are some of the reasons why I think this is a great choice for my freshman students:
The Agathas: A Good Choice for Reluctant Readers
This is not a difficult read. The plot moves quickly and the dual narration keeps the reader interested. I think this is an excellent choice for reluctant readers.
Working in a high school, I feel that teenagers can relate to the issues going on at the school (although the portrayal of high school life may be somewhat hyperbolic at times) and within the friend groups.
The mystery keeps the brain engaged looking for clues and piecing them together into a coherent motive. I can definitely see some of my reluctant readers begrudgingly starting this book and reading all the way to the end.
A Renewed Interest in Agatha Christie
Anything that turns my students on to Agatha Christie cannot be bad, in my biased opinion. Even before her recently renewed popularity, my students have really enjoyed learning about Ms. Christie’s life and all her scandals.
Below are two articles that I have my students read that pique their interest in Agatha Christie’s real life:
My hope is that reading The Agathas will inspire an interest in some of the more famous Christie novels: And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, etc.
And then maybe, just MAYBE we inspire some lifelong Christie fans. Too much to wish for? Possibly, but I am an eternal optimist.
Check out this post I wrote on Agatha Christie’s life and works.
The Agathas: Two Unlikely Teenage Female Detectives
In the story, Alice, after reading many of Agatha Christie’s mysteries, feels a strong connection to the unassuming detective, Jane Marple.
Alice says many times what she thinks Miss Marple would do in a given situation, and Marple’s character motivates Alice to do hard things, to poke her nose in where it doesn’t belong, and to keep going even when she is afraid.
Alice relates to how Miss Marple is constantly underestimated by the men around her. The policemen find her annoying and equate her as a doddering old fool. They speak loudly to her as if she is hard of hearing (she isn’t).
Shrewdly, Miss Marple counts on this perception and uses it as a way to get information and further her own investigations. Miss Marple secretly enjoys surprising the police when she solves the crime before they do.
Alice also feels misunderstood by the people in her life – her parents, friends, and teachers. She feels powerless as teenagers often do, and instead of allowing herself to feel victimized by it, she chooses to use it to her advantage as well.
In this way, this is a story of female teenage empowerment, and I cannot overstate how much I love that.
Well timed Breaks In The Plot - A Rest for the YA Mind
The authors, Glasgow and Lawson, insert breaks in the text in the forms of text conversations, breaking news, Instagram comments, and a murder board.
I think this is a unique and engaging writing technique that will draw in today’s teenagers. It also serves as an actual break. Like I said, this story plot moves fast, and these breaks give us a second to catch our breath and think about what has just happened.
I personally used these story breaks as a pause to go over new evidence and events and try to connect the dots in my head. I love trying to solve a mystery along with the detectives!
The Agathas: Themes of Strong Family and Friend Relationships
One of the themes of The Agathas that I think is super important for high school students is the theme of deep vs. shallow relationships. It is clear that Alice’s previous friendships were superficial at best, and her parents don’t seem to spend any quality time with her.
Iris’s friends are true, and she is close with her mom, which is a stark contrast to Alice’s situation. As Alice and Iris become closer, Alice makes deeper connections.
The message will be obvious to the teen reader that it is better to be unpopular and have close connections than to follow the crowd into superficiality.
Also, without giving too much away, Iris has an abusive relationship in her life that could possibly make a reader with a similar situation feel less alone.
Criticism of The Agathas
As much as I enjoyed this story, there are a few places that I believe it falls short. I don’t think it will stop me from offering this book as an independent reading option to my students, but in more conservative classrooms and schools these could be potential obstacles.
First, there is some possibly offensive language. The authors used some words that might make it difficult to use in the classroom. My school doesn’t get too worked up about language, but please read the book before assigning or giving it as an option to be sure that it works for your environment.
Next, the naming of groups drove me a little crazy. Calling groups of students The Mains, Zoners, etc. gave me big The Breakfast Club vibes, but not in a good way. Even though it is clearly ridiculous in the book, I still don’t love perpetuating the idea of a named social hierarchy.
Last, and maybe most important to me, some of the female teachers at the school are written as stupid and easily manipulated. I don’t want to say too much here because I will give away part of the mystery, but read it and tell me what you think.
All in all, I really enjoyed this story and I think my freshman students will too. I plan to give it as an independent reading option, and will update this post when I do. If you use it in your classroom, let me know! I would love to hear how it’s going and what your students think of it.
Check out the lesson planning template that I use for creating and organizing my lessons here!
Purchase The Agathas here.