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Shadowed Seats (Oliana Mercer, #1) by Marguerite Ashton 

Gripping, complex, and entertaining contemporary young adult murder mystery. 

High school seniors Oliana Mercer and her best friend, Devin Worthy, are looking forward to the upcoming play they are working on: Oliana as the student director and Devin in the lead role. But life for both girls just took a massive left turn. While looking for a wig in the attic, Oliana uncovers a letter to her step-mom from her biological mother that seems to indicate that what Oliana had always been told about her bio parents just wasn’t the truth. The hints about the real story sounded dark and grim. 

Devin was also struggling. She’d just discovered she was pregnant, and her boyfriend, James, may be ghosting her! To make matters worse, James’s ex-girlfriend, who is also involved in the current school production, has been dogging her at every turn, both at school and online. Her life was spiraling into misery! 

When Devin dies during rehearsal, and the police start looking at Oliana’s boyfriend, Austin, as a primary suspect, Oliana starts asking her questions to find her best friend’s real murderer. 

Shadowed Seats is the first book in the Oliana Mercer young adult mystery series and is an immediate attention grabber. The two main characters, Oliana and Devin, are undergoing a lot of stress yet are still giving the high school play their all. Even after Devin’s murder, Oliana is able to keep her composure enough to start asking questions and putting crucial pieces of information together that the police have overlooked. 

I liked that several storylines opened and progressed simultaneously, and they meshed together into an absorbing whole, so I didn’t want to put this book down until the very end. Some are not resolved and, hopefully, are held over to be explored further in future books, and I will be waiting anxiously for what comes next. 

Wrapped up in this intriguing murder mystery, the author has also taken on some difficult and important topics, such as alcoholism, blended families, teen pregnancy, and bullying. With relatable teen characters discussing these serious and relevant issues, young readers may be motivated or inspired to speak out if similar situations arise in their lives. 

I recommend SHADOWED SEATS to readers who enjoy young adult mysteries that entertain but weave in topics relevant to life today.

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