Highly entertaining YA thriller

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I always love a good “rich people being rich people” satire, and while The Legacies doesn’t reinvent the wheel, Goodman weaves a fun thriller that had me rapidly turning the pages. The characters are wonderfully messy, and there’s a refreshing multigenerational arc that I rarely see as elaborated as it is in this book. Beyond just rich people being bad, Goodman deftly handles how the upper class elite continuously exploits the working class, as well as how that entitlement is passed on to their heirs.

The Legacies begins the moment the police arrive at the secretive Legacy Club, where a body has been found and Bernie Kaplan, the daughter of a New York socialite and big-shot lawyer, is the one with blood on her hands. This cold open works great by building suspense, and I really liked how the victim’s identity is kept a secret as well. This adds an additional mystery element; whereas most thrillers spend time exploring the potential murders and their motives, Goodman asks if, maybe, the victim deserved their tragic end. While I was able to guess the murderer’s identity early on, I think the true twist/revelation (or at least the one that had me clapping a hand over my mouth in shock) was revealing the victim and really elevates the book’s interrogation of social class and privilege. I loved that Goodman was able to tackle some more difficult topics without losing the clear satirical edge.

Though the writing wasn’t particularly notable and some of the tropes were familiar to me as a casual YA thriller reader, the three POV characters were all fun to follow. Working-class scholarship student Tori Tasso was my favorite, especially because I related to her the most. Refreshingly, although her backstory does somewhat play into the “dead mother” trope, Goodman takes time to explore the effects of her mother’s death on Tori’s widowed father and avoids stereotyping him as a workaholic-turned-abuser, unlike most adult thrillers. Her arc also includes a fascinating commentary on how the legal system enables the elites. Tori’s world is effortlessly diverse: she’s a queer Greek-American with a Japanese girlfriend, Joss. I really liked Joss’s character—she’s supportive but blunt and not afraid to be honest with her girlfriend, though Goodman’s use of the word “cute” to describe her felt like it was feeding into a stereotype about Japanese girls and made me wince.

Bernie is the magnetic Queen B-type stock character, but I really enjoyed her character arc as she realizes her special relationship with her (now-missing) mother may have been more codependent and exploitative than she initially thought. She’s a more straightforward character that lacks the nuances I found in Tori, but her introspective growth felt authentic, especially when she begins to go outside her privileged bubble to befriend Tori. Her disillusionment with her wealthy childhood was a bit too instantaneous for my liking, but I liked the emotional aspect.

The last POV character, Isobel Rothcraft, is the stereotypical unhinged teen in the vein of HBO’s Euphoria. She’s an unstable artistic genius whose wealth has enabled her addictions to alcohol and opioids as people turn a blind eye to her. I felt that Isobel could have been a good vehicle to explore these issues, but she was too one-sided for my liking as she just got drunk or high throughout the entire book. I did like that she eventually realized her problems and sought help, but like the rest of the book, felt a tad rushed to be believable.

Despite my reservations about the characters, The Legacies was still wildly entertaining and kept me engaged throughout. The ending is nice and tidy (perhaps too easily resolved), but a nice open-ending grants the characters closure while leaving the door open for a prequel or spin-off.

Content warnings for addiction and relapse (alcohol, drugs/opioids), nausea and alcohol-induced throwing up, death of a parent (off-page but mentioned throughout in non-graphic detail), hospital malpractice, grief and depression, implied relationship and sexual manipulation, consent issues (no physical abuse or rape), broken limbs and mild gore (a person dies after falling from a roof), blood