An Intriguing Beginning That Never Quite Takes Off
by Jeffrey Salane
Series: Lawless (Book 1)
Publication Date: April 1, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Press
The Lawless School provides the right education for kids on the wrong side of the law.
M Freeman has been homeschooled her entire life. So M has no idea just how unusual her education has been – not until she leaves home to attend the prestigious (and mysterious) Lawless School.
Suddenly, it’s very clear to M that her tutors have been preparing her all along for a life of crime. She excels at escape tactics. She’s a whiz at spotting forgeries. Her years of piano lessons pay off when picking pockets and cracking safes.
M’s newfound talent for criminal mischief soon brings her to the attention of the Masters, the secretive school’s most secretive clique. M’s interest in the Masters is personal – joining this international dishonor society is her best chance to learn the truth about her father’s life. . .and his death.
But when her first real-world heist goes wrong, M is left wondering: Is there truly honor among thieves?
Don’t judge a book by its cover. It’s a phrase we’ve all heard repeated so often it’s become cliché. Appearances can be deceiving; that’s a lesson learned by Lawless heroine “M”. Unfortunately, it was also my experience with this novel. The cover held so much promise — a cool spy girl, I thought. And the story got off to a decent start. My curiosity was piqued by the opening chapters. M is an unusual girl, a little strange, in fact. Her upbringing has been most unusual. And when she has a mysterious interview for The Lawless School, it looks like the cover tease is going to pan out.
This is where I should mention that Lawless is a debut novel. And debut novels generally have their pluses and minuses. Many authors are still learning to fine tune their skills. Though still able to be enjoyed, Lawless suffers in two areas.
The first problem is uneven pacing. Once M makes it to the Lawless School, too much time is spent in classes whose assignments involve competitions pitting the students against one another. What was at first entertaining soon became repetitive and didn’t serve to further the larger plot action. Within the time at the school, I felt there were avenues of world building left unexplored. Surely, we could have looked deeper into some of the things mentioned in passing so as not to have things feel samey.
The second shortcoming is harder to overlook. Many reviewers have spoken of plot holes in the novel, and by “plot holes”, I’m never sure whether folks refer to implausible circumstances, gaps in continuity, or things that just plain don’t make sense. Certainly, there are some events that are implausible, and that’s to be expected in this type of book. But the biggest issue was that I was too often left scratching my head and turning the pages back to check that I hadn’t missed something. When this kind of thing happens, I can look the other way once. The error, for Salane, was repeated infractions. By the time I’d reached the end of the story, I was convinced there must have been some missing chapters. Reading Lawless feels like an odd kind of game where Jeffrey Salane withholds key information without dropping hints or clues, only to later bring something to light in an astonishing reveal or reversal. Unfortunately, that’s not the kind of caper I had anticipated.
— Dawn Teresa
3 of 5 Hearts. An Intriguing Beginning That Never Quite Takes Off.
Lawless is the kind of book I just wanted so badly to like. While it’s not without merit, there were too many unanswered questions. Too many times where things just didn’t make sense. Though I can’t say that Lawless was a dizzying tale of action and intrigue, it did leave me dizzy.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Scholastic Press for providing me a copy of this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”