Sean Beaudoin

Enough excellent writing to fill a large tube sock

My Books:


Booklist starred review *

The cliques rule the rackets in Salt River High. The two top outfits, the Balls (football players, "wearers of no-irony crew cuts") and Pinker Casket (thrash rockers, "most appropriate for funerals or virgin sacrifices"), are hurtling towards a turf war, and all the assorted mid-level cliques (and even the crooked Fack Cult T) are constantly looking for an angle to ride to prominence. At the center of the maelstrom is a body, Wesley Payne, a former member of the Euclidians (nerds, "fingertip sniffers"), who was found wrapped in duct tape, hanging upside-down from the goalposts. Teenage private dick Dalton Rev arrives to sort out the murder, locate a missing hundred grand, and if everything rolls his way, ride off into the sunset with the adorable Macy Payne. Beaudoin plays a Chandler hand with a Tarantino smirk in this ultra-clever high-school noir, dropping invented brand labels on everything from energy-drink ingredients (Flavor Flavah) to the Almighty ("Oh my Bob!"). Ever checking his moves against what his crime-novel hero, Lexington Cole, would do, Dalton himself is so straight hard-boiled, it’s screwy: "Dalton played it cool. He played it frozen. He was in full Deano at the Copa mode." But in the end, none of the stylistic pastiche and slick patter would matter if they weren’t hitched to such a propulsive mystery, with enough double-crosses and blindsiding reveals to give you vertigo. Moreover, the opening "Clique Chart" might just be the funniest four pages you’ll read all year.


BCCB starred review *

In classic noir fashion, hard-case Dalton Rev is enticed by an apparently bereft, beautiful girl to take on a mystery involving the death of her brother, who was found trussed in duct tape and hanging from the goalposts on his high school’s football field. Dalton is not as cool and in control as he appears, however; in fact, he takes his entire game plan from a fictional detective, Lexington Cole, whose exploits don’t always model well for Dalton’s circumstances, leading to some hilarious improvisations. The school in which Dalton is sleuthing is a hotbed of corruption and intrigue, ruled by virulently oppositional cliques, each with lucrative money-making rackets and all held in a tense stasis by the elusive cult of the Lee Harvies, who show up at random on the school roof with assault rifles to ride herd on the masses. The cliques themselves are the main characters here; they are introduced and flowcharted in introductory material, with descriptions reeking of hyperbolic, snort-evoking snark. Beaudoin’s razor-sharp rhetorical wit plays smartly with the generic conventions of the hard-boiled detective novel, but the story is shaded throughout with typical adolescent male anxieties, making this parody more engaging and complex than the exemplars it plays off of. Even the sentimental heart of the piece, a talk between Dalton and his mother, who is despairing over the apparent failure of their family, is as emotionally resonant as the earnest attempts at this sort of conversation found in texts that take themselves more seriously. The hipster slickness of the narrative makes the accompanying glossary a welcome aid even though most of the terms are evident in context; like the glossary in Frank Portman’s King Dork, it provides as much supplemental comedic value as it does genuine information. The short stories appended to the end are entertaining, and the excerpt from the Lex Cole novel makes one wish it were real. Give this to fans of King Dork and the indie film Brick and then direct them to Dashiell Hammett for a taste of the real thing, knowing that they just might like this better.


Kirkus Review

December 15, 2010

Tough, suit-sporting, no-nonsense high-school sleuth Dalton Rev stalks the killer who masterminded the murder of popular in-guy Wesley Payne. Hired by Wesley’s ueber-hot sister Macy, Dalton treads a dangerous path, where high-school cliques war like gangs and corruption is pervasive. Dalton’s hilarious, hard-boiled Chandler-esque one-liners cut the intimidating come-ons of thuggish football players, snooty band snobs and jaded cops to the quick, though they also often require flips to the novel’s glossary. They add to Beaudoin’s ambitious, sharply scoped gumshoe universe, the complexity of which often overwhelms the plot and may leave many readers scratching their heads and leafing back to previous chapters to uncover who-did-what-when—though it’s so adeptly constructed one might legitimately wonder if that’s the point. Multiple characters simultaneously add intrigue and befuddlement, and the 30-plus pages of climax will have willing readers chuckling in amusement and less patient ones enraged. That said, this dark, cynical romp is full of clever references and red herrings, which will delight the adult noir fan and pique the curiosities of the observant outcast teen who’s looking for a way to infiltrate the in-crowd.


The Goddess Of YA Literature: Dr. Teri Lesesne

I remember back to the 80s when I first read Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block. My first reaction was, "?" It took me a beat or two to pick up what was happening to the face of YA literature as it met up with magical realism a la pop culture in a slinskter style (if you have no idea what I just said, Hie thee to a bookstore!) Ditto experience for Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas (I only knew there was someone named this who was a writer and not a rocker at the time as Matchbox 20 has not become elevator music yet). Now, imagine if Rob Thomas and Fracesca Lia Block had a child, a child who could channel John Green, Hunter S. Thompson, and maybe Elmore Leonard and Dashiell Hammett all jumbled together but snarkier?

Even if you can imagine all that, you still have no idea what is in store for you when you read Sean Beaudoin’s latest offering: You Killed Wesley Payne (Little Brown, February 2011), a film noir set in a high school from the dark imaginings of hard-boiled dick. Dalton Rev is our detective, transferred to Salt River High to solve the mystery of "the body." To do so, he will have to understand the rather complex clique system and its hierarchy which include your traditional beefy jocks (the Ballers) and nerds (the Euclidians) and some less familiar groups (the Lee Harvies). References to pop culture might just cause some whiplash here (wait, was that a reference to Clockwork Orange? World According to Garp?) for some readers. However, the hijinks will still appeal to those who do not get them all (and seriously I need to read this again as I know I missed some of it as well).

Fresh, funny, dark, and able to outsnark the snarkiest: You Killed Wesley Payne was a wonderful way to pass a hot summer day.


VOYA review

Seventeen-year-old Dalton Rev’s arrival in the Salt River High parking lot is loudly announced by the growling of his motor scooter’s muffler. When he dismounts and unzips his leather jacket, his white shirt and tie make it clear that he will not be easily categorized into one of the school’s many cliques. That is good, because he has come to solve the murder of a student, hired by the victim’s sister. Dalton moves into a cynical, and sometimes dangerous, teen world where students pay off teachers, administrators, and each other to get what they want. Navigating the complicated social strata, moving ever closer to the real killer, Dalton refers frequently to the sardonic sayings in his Private Dick Handbook, a feature of his own hero, the fictional detective Lex Cole.

 Poking fun at detective novels, guy lit, and teens themselves all in one novel is a tall order, but the author pulls it off. Just when the reader begins to think that 368 pages is going to be too much wisecracking patter, the author lets Dalton’s mask slip to reveal his feelings and insecurities. With just-right pacing, suspense builds to Dalton’s ultimate success and a bittersweet resolution. Then, in a hilarious coda to the main plot, Dalton’s little brother, Turd Unit, proves to be the best detective of all. A chart of the Salt River High cliques in the front and a tongue-in-cheek glossary of the book’s highly inventive slang at the end add to the satirical fun of this multilevel spoof.


Reading Nook review

"It was like Shakespeare, Palahniuk and Dashiell Hammett all got together and wrote a novel. It was witty and fierce and enigmatic in equal doses. Sean Beaudoin has proven again that he is his own voice in young adult fiction."


BookSlut review

"Oh, and it’s funnier than hell. When you aren’t feeling depressed over how screwed up we all are, or cheering Dalton on, you will certainly be laughing at the antics of all these kids and the adults who think they are controlling them, when really, it’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to the extreme. This makes it the guidebook for anyone who has ever attended school anywhere, and thus about the most relatable YA book I’ve come across in ages. Except when it’s not."


Bites Blog review

"Beaudoin has this ability to write the psychotic that makes it come out almost believable. Everything is so absolutely insane and so over the top that no one could make this kind of thing up, right? Not really. But that’s how it works. It’s like pulp noir and crack had a baby but instead of being this huge ol’ mess, it’s so well put together that you’re almost afraid to touch it. Is it real? Is it delicate? Will it all come crumbling down at the end under the weight of its own insanity?"


Read My Mind review

"This is a book that has inside jokes, slang, and clever double-entendres, but never left me feeling confused or overwhelmed. This book was smart. It was intelligent, and didn’t read as "dumbing" down. Dalton Rev’s gotta keep up with his -stuff- and so does the reader. It was also funny, shocking, slick, enjoyable, quick-witted and it should appeal to the boy’s boys, the smart girls, the young adults, the reluctant readers, and the looking-for-something-fresh book lovers. Read it. Now."


Oodles of Books review

"It takes a little while to get used to the strangeness of this book, but once you get past the first few pages and realize that there isn’t much we would call "normal" going on, it is too enjoyable to put down. You are quickly moving through a fast-paced, unstoppable adventure, full of dark humor, lots of slang, plenty of characters who connect and add quite a lot to the story, and the mystery of who killed The Body that will keep you guessing until the end."


Bibliophiles Support Group review

You Killed Wesley Payne has absolutely fantastic wit and humor, making for a deliciously dark comedy. It’s smart, extremely well-executed, and intricately plotted. Sean Beaudoin nearly demands a sharp mind in the reader and expects attention to be focused, a demand, which when followed-through, rewards the reader with a unique, refreshingly original detective novel that merges classic voices of black-and-white drama with biting humor.


Ms. Martin Teaches Media review

"This is the book for you if you like your mysteries from the noir end of the spectrum and you like your humor dark."


The Book Muncher review

"You Killed Wesley Payne is a highly unusual but very thrilling detective novel. Forget Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes, I want to hear more from Dalton Rev! It’s hard not to be a little charmed by this fast talking, quirky kid who, despite always going where the money is, tries to hold true to his morals. As each new development in the case is revealed, and through a few well placed flashbacks, the reader comes to understand why Dalton is the way he is, and it really is fascinating to see."


That Teen Can Blog review

"I really loved Dalton. That’s an understatement. I wanted to eternally snuggle with him. He was that "good guy" character that we all hate to love but love anyway. The best part was that he acknowledged that and made fun of it on several occasions."


Epic Book Nerd review

"I really loved this book like I said (may I emphasize) AGATHA CRISTIE + PSYCH =You Killed Wesley Payne."


Guy’s Lit Wire review

"Beaudoin is a genius with language. He paints entire settings by adopting perfect names for things. His dialogue is hip, funny and pitch perfect. By letting Dalton talk and lie and doubt himself, he creates a character that quickly fills out his cartoon facade. The supporting cast of characters play their own stereotypical roles, but Beaudoin allows each of them to reveal some secret or quirk that imbues him or her with just enough humanity."


St. Petersburg Times review

"Beaudoin’s characters are mostly stereotypical high school teenagers, but the way that he describes them by exaggerating their features and personalities makes them feel more lifelike than real-world high schoolers. Even though you may not have done the crime, it’s worth the time to read You Killed Wesley Payne."


YA Need Books review

"Once I let the humor and atmosphere trump the plot, I was hooked.  Immediately hooked.  I let the emotions, descriptions and teen-muddled noir references wash over me; and I got carried away.  Then, before I knew it, the plot unfolded, I was trying to figure out the mystery and was able to keep the characters straight without referring to the blasted clique list.  But don’t get me wrong.  The Clique Index is as important to telling the story as the Glossary and other extras included at the end of the book.  They help us figure out Dalton Rev, perhaps the biggest mystery of the book.Those willing to let the words flow without thinking too hard about plot will be richly rewarded by this book.  If you’re a literal reader, strong on plot, allow yourself to be emotionally attached to the book and you won’t regret it.  Maybe Beaudoin will make this the first in a series, much like the Lexington Cole detective books that Dalton Rev collects.  I’d follow this hard-boiled detective through more cases."


This Miss Loves To Read review

"The plot twists are delightful and the ending quite surprising and even shocking. I truly enjoyed the plot and cracked one half of the mystery – the other half surprised me, which is always a plus, as good literary mysteries shouldn’t be entirely solved by the reader, in my opinion."


Strange Candy review

"You Killed Wesley Payne is one great read. Even though it is YA and contains some violence, sexual references and inventive language, I recommend it to anyone who is after something different. It was a nice break from the usual. You Killed Wesley Payne is certainly in a league of its own."


Mary Beisecker Library review

"I love Beaudoin for bringing back the hard-boiled mystery/crime genre. This book is going to resonate with teens of every ilk because of Dalton’s anti-superhero, how many times can I be beat unconscious, everyman persona, as well as for the plethora of cliques that will enable most teens to find someone they relate to."


Where The Wolves Read review

"I didn’t really know what to expect reading this book. A crime novel with teenagers? What have I gotten myself into? Well fear not because this book was fabulous."


Bookpage review

"Author Sean Beaudoin’s talent is impressive as he intersperses several elements throughout Dalton’s story, including a clever and elaborate clique chart that takes the stereotypical high-school social hierarchy and turns it on its head."


Chapter One review

"What do you get when you mix "Chinatown" with "Pretty Little Liars," "Heathers" and "The Outsiders?" A riveting and gritty crime noir set in a fictional high school. If there are a million stories in the naked city, there are at least a few thousand at Salt River High and "You Killed Wesley Payne" is one. It’s a fast, twisted and highly entertaining mystery you won’t want to put down."


The Andover Townsman review

"Beaudoin describes modern high school life with a unique urban rhythm. His depiction of high school is insane but riveting, exaggerated yet truthful. Beaudoin manages to capture the swagger and slang, the struggle and strife of high school society. His satirical style is reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut."

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