July 22, 2015 • Cee • Reviews

trouble in a friend of mineTrouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly
August 4, 2015
Kathy Dawson Books (Penguin)
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* ARC courtesy of Kelly

Preparing to survive a typical day of being Digbys friend wasn’t that different from preparing to survive the apocalypse.

Her first day not in school (because she cut) in her new hometown that will soon be her old hometown (because she’s getting out of Dodge as fast as she can) Zoe meets Digby. Or rather, Digby decides he’s going to meet Zoe and get her to help him find missing teenager. Zoe isn’t sure how, but Digby—the odd and brilliant and somehow…attractive?—Digby always gets what he wants, including her help on several illegal ventures. Before she knows it, Zoe has vandalized an office complex with fake snow, pretended to buy drugs alongside a handsome football player dressed like the Hulk, had a throw-down with a possible cult, and, oh yeah, saved her new hometown (which might be worth making her permanent hometown after all.)

A mystery where catching the crook isn’t the only hook, a romance where the leading man is decidedly unromantic, a story about friendship where they aren’t even sure they like each other—Trouble is a Friend of Mine is a YA debut you won’t soon forget.


First sentence: “I’ve been telling Mom to change the drained batteries in the doorbell since we moved in.”

What happens when you cross Sherlock with Veronica Mars with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? You get Trouble is a Friend of Mine, but the questions you really want to know the answers to are: 1. does the book warrant those comparisons? and 2. is it actually good? Well, I’m glad you stopped by.

Trouble is a Friend of Mine follows Zoe Webster, who recently moved to River Heights with her mom after her parents divorced, and Philip Digby, a suit-wearing teenager who befriends Zoe and ropes her into his investigation (more like shenanigans). They attempt to solve the mystery of the missing teenager as well as the weird cult that lives across the street from Zoe. The situations they get themselves into are both amusing, ridiculous, and dangerous. Will they be okay? Will they solve the mysteries?

Things to Note in Trouble is a Friend of Mine

  • This is Digby’s world, and we’re all just living in it. 

Everybody tends to gravitate towards Digby. They can’t help it whether they want to or not. It’s just the way things are. If Digby zeroes in on you for whatever reason, believe that it’s gonna be hard to escape him because he doesn’t let go. He befriends Zoe in an unexpected way, and makes her do things he wants like help him break into a doctor’s office and steal files. Henry, a football jock who was close friends with Digby, was pulled back into Digby’s life after they had stopped talking. Henry specifically said something along the lines of this point. Digby runs the show, and everybody’s just along for the ride.

  • Words like no and boundaries are not in Philip Digby’s vocabulary.

Like all Sherlock-esque characters, Digby is, of course, an asshole. An endearing one? Not at all. I wanted kick him in hithes nads multiple times.

As I got further into the story, I was not okay with his actions. He doesn’t take no for an answer, and essentially manipulates and pressures Zoe into doing things she doesn’t want to do in a very roundabout way. He doesn’t tell Zoe about what he’s getting her into. He doesn’t respect boundaries—he reads Zoe’s diary, digs through her drawers, and essentially pimps Zoe out without her permission. He always expects her to give in, and she does (which annoys me because I wanted her to think for herself for once). He always knows what to do and knows all the answers. He does not seem to care about his friends like if they get hurt or are put in danger. He’ll rope them in because he can.

He has his quirks, but he is reckless, and impulsive and manic too. He’s intent on finding out what happened to his little sister who went missing years ago. But just because he experienced major trauma does not excuse his behavior. He’s suffering from major issues that the book doesn’t properly address.

  • These characters become friends because of Digby.

I swear Digby is exceptionally skilled at picking up strays. Remember when I said people tend to gravitate towards him? Those people are an eclectic group—you have the new girl who’s an outcast; a jock who was a former close friend of Digby’s; a nerd who constantly gets picked on by bullies; and others who aren’t considered friends but either has a crush on Digby or hates him with a passion. Because of their connection with Digby, they all get roped into each other’s lives, and how it happens was just so weird and entertaining to watch.

  • The mysteries Digby and Zoe investigates are alluring, ridiculous, and a lot of fun.

What happened to the missing girl? What is that mysterious cult with the Amazonian-like woman with her plaid-wearing “kids” doing every day and night? What are Digby and Zoe getting themselves into?

Expect the most weirdest, ridiculous, yet amusing mystery you’d ever read. Right from the start, I was enthralled by all the mysteries that I wanted answers to like the bizarre cult living across the street from Zoe with their plaid and prairie wearing clothes, always cleaning and scrubbing. I wanted Zoe and Digby to get to the bottom of it, so I can learn what it’s really all about! I wanted to know how the missing girl may be connected to Digby’s young sister’s disappearance. What does it all mean? I won’t say anymore because you’ll get to see for yourself.

  • These characters did not really grow to become three-dimensional characters.

These characters essentially end up the way they started.

Digby starts off as an asshole genius who doesn’t understand the concept of boundaries or the word “no,” and his character remains the same throughout. He doesn’t feel bad for what he’s put his friends through. He’s still the same guy with family issues and a little sister who’s still missing, but he gained a little piece of information at the end. There wasn’t really any character development or actions that made him sympathetic. Zoe starts off focused on leaving River Heights for Prentiss, a prestigious school that will help her get into Princeton and complaining about how her mother is always in denial. The only growth we get from her involves those two things when she comes to terms with them. I also couldn’t understand how she could trust Digby when he made creepy statements like how he watched her and went through her things. The other characters stayed one-dimensional as well.

It’s hard to feel sympathetic or root for these characters when they haven’t really developed enough to tie me to them emotionally. They don’t ever feel real.


So, what’s the end results? You definitely will see pieces of Sherlock in the asshole Sherlock-esque Digby and in the mystery; Veronica Mars in the teenage sleuth and occasional sass from the main characters; and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in the ridiculous shenanigans they get themselves into.

Trouble is a Friend of Mine was a good read full of quirky and quick-witted characters who cannot help but join in Digby’s investigation of the mysteries going around town. Yes, it had characterization issues as well as weird pacing issues (where it felt slow at some parts and absolutely manic in others), but it was still fun and ridiculous. That’s what you’re in for.


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