James Patterson is sometimes viewed as a controversial figure in the book world, but there is no denying that he knows a good story when he sees one and he has always been a champion for diversity in the literary landscape. So, it is no surprising that his young adult imprint, “Jimmy Patterson,” picked up Derek Milman’s Swipe Right For Murder, a lightning-fast thriller with a gay teen lead and a plot designed to both entertain and educate.
While not quite as short as some of Patterson’s chapters, Derek Milman echoes that bestseller’s style in crafting breezy episodes that end on cliffhangers designed to keep readers glued to the pages. Readers will continue to turn pages until the wee hours of the morning, never realizing that time is passing.
Swipe Right For Murder begins with seventeen-year-old Aidan checking into a swanky hotel in New York City. What’s a horny teen with an evening free from parental control to do? Check out DirtyPaws, the latest gay cruising app, of course. This unfortunate decision sends Aidan down a path that will overturn everything he thought he know about the world at large and about himself, specifically.
After a brief tête-à-tête with a closeted classmate ends in shambles leaving Aidan reeling, he hooks up with a handsome older man in that man’s hotel room. All proceeds as expected on this adventurous evening until Aidan wakes up to find this man dead beside him on the high-thread-count sheets. It quickly becomes clear that Aidan is going to take the fall, but escaping only puts his life in greater danger. Everywhere Aidan turns, people seem to be after him, hunting him for unknown reasons.
With some help from his buddies, Aidan uncovers a conspiracy that seems both ludicrous and understandable – depending on one’s vantage point. With the specter of terrorism shadowing every development, a chance encounter with a sexy-as-fuck college student – one who may or may not be on Aidan’s side – Aidan’s confusion and stress reaches unforeseen, and dangerous, new levels.
Derek Milman packs his fast-paced story with pop culture references and enough contemporary turns-of-phrase to make it feel extremely relevant and realistic, but it is his skill with weaving in LGBTQ+ history that will awe readers. Wrapped in this thriller is a story about a boy discovering where he fits in a community that continues to be viewed in negative ways by far too many people. As he watches things unfold, Aidan learns just how fine the line between activism and fanaticism really is – they are two sides of the same coin.
Befitting today’s brand of young adult literature, Aidan is a complex character, flawed in significant ways, but also looking to mature despite society’s desire to ignore his existence. Milman makes Aidan a sympathetic character, easily relatable to a vast swath of the young adult population. He is a boy grieving the loss of his brother; a boy confused by his feelings about a lost love that was equal parts enticing, forbidden, and fractured; a boy shedding his innocence while trying to find himself, to understand his role and place in our world. Ultimately, it is Aidan’s growth that will stick with readers long after the thrilling action set-pieces fade from memory.
Swipe Right For Murder is a story packed with LGBTQ+ concerns that lets young readers know that bad decisions do not make one a bad person; we all have the ability to change, to improve, to learn to treat others – and ourselves – with the dignity and respect that is earned. But make no mistake about it, this novel is also a rousing, sexy, and satisfying thriller tailor-made to keep readers up all night long, cheering on this reluctant hero as he navigates each new challenge in the face of imminent death.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was obtained at ALA. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.