Full Moon Publishing (2006)
Reviewed by Rachael Stein (age 15) for Reader Views (10/08)
Remy, a teen with a nearly genius IQ, is a girl of many talents (or peculiarities). Her latest hobby is forensic reconstruction, so she purchases a monkey skull at a local auction to practice on. She gets help from another outcast from school, Rob, nicknamed Roadkill because of his interest in dead animals, and a runaway named Andy, whose past is shrouded in mystery. But these new friends’ secrets aren’t the only ones in their hometown. As Remy finishes reconstructing the skull, it becomes apparent that the skull isn’t a monkey’s but that of a human baby. But now that these teens know this secret, there’s no turning back. They have to uncover the rest of this scandal—before it’s too late.
“The Skull” is basically your generic mystery story with a few plot twists added in. The story starts off a bit slow, but picks up pace as Remy, Rob, and Andy start uncovering more clues about the town’s secret. The suspense is at its height near the end of the story. The mystery is surprisingly well-crafted; I was not expecting the outcome. Although the plot is boring towards the ending, the unexpected ending really redeemed the story.
Most mysteries are primarily plot-based, and “The Skull” is no different. Remy, Rob, and Andy do have their own individual tales, which were a little interesting; however, I felt that there wasn’t sufficient character development for me to truly sympathize with these teens’ stories. Also, sometimes, the teens felt a little too cookie-cutter, which made them seem less realistic. These subplots as well as the backgrounds of many other characters provided only detracted my attention from the main storyline; this had only a negative effect because these smaller stories weren’t nearly as interesting or well-written as the main plot. I did, however, enjoy how practically all the characters in “The Skull” were connected in one way or another; this is one of my favorite features of mysteries, and Tooley does not disappoint here.
Readers looking for a good mystery should check out “The Skull.” Don’t be thrown off by the less-than-satisfactory cover art; “The Skull” by S.D. Tooley has the plot twists, if not the characters, that all mystery lovers will enjoy.