Razorbill: 256 pp, $17.99
Every high school student could use a friend like Colin Fischer, the protagonist in a new teen mystery novel called, as it happens, "Colin Fischer." Not that having Colin for a friend is easy. Quite the opposite.
He has a quality unusual in a high school student: He'll tell you the truth, even when that means telling the girl he's sweet on not only that her "breasts got bigger" over the summer but that that "is a perfectly normal reaction to elevated hormone levels during puberty." It's a tribute to Colin's good heart that she doesn't get angry.
Obsessed with truth and lies, as well as math and a number of other subjects, Colin has Asperger's syndrome. He's not naturally adept at social life and hates to be touched. But he works hard to make up for what doesn't come easily, carrying around drawings to help him decipher the emotional meaning of the faces around him. And he devises a complicated chart to sort out the pecking order at West Valley High.
"Colin Fischer" was written by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz, the screenwriters of "X-Men: First Class" and "Thor." But there's no trace of superheroes here. Instead, the first-time authors use journal entries and footnotes to flesh out the interior life of an unusual teenager who happens to love mysteries.
So when a gun goes off in the chaos of the school cafeteria, there's just no chance that Colin won't start to investigate who brought it to school. Like good adult mysteries, our amateur detective outwits the professionals over and over again.
He's funny, sometimes when he means to be and sometimes when he doesn't. (When his mother was pregnant with his brother, Colin got his dad to read him the whole of "What to Expect When You're Expecting" — a feat not achieved by most mothers-to-be.) And he can be recklessly fearless in the pursuit of his criminal, absolutely committed to what he knows to be true.
In a world fraught with bullies and girls and gym class, Colin is lucky enough to have compassionate, smart parents who understand their son, and normal enough to have a brother who torments him. As unusual as this character is, he's also recognizable to all teenagers: uncertain about their place in the world, uncertain about what others think and how much it matters, uncertain about their own feelings.
I fell for Colin, enough so that I didn't even mind the kind of cheesy setup for the next mystery. This boy may be one of a kind, but it's clear that "Colin Fischer" is intended to be the start of long relationship.