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YA Review: Pest by Elizabeth Foscue

Title: Pest

Author: Elizabeth Foscue
Year published: 2022
Category: YA fiction
Pages: 224 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location: (my 2024 Google Reading map)USA (CA)

SummaryBetween her dad’s pest control company, her mom’s pond cleaning service and her side gig at Caddysnack (Santa Barbara’s premier small plates and minigolf destination) Hal puts the “work” in working class. But Hal has qualms about gassing gophers. She’s tired of ditching friends to skim dead fish from fountains. And she’s freaking weary of divorced-parent politics. So Hal has a plan: win the prestigious Verhaag Scholarship, go to an east coast school, never come back.

But the Verhaag Scholarship has a proud history of nepotism and a last-minute contender just crawled out of the woodwork. Hal’s parking lot nemesis usurps Yearbook Committee, depriving Hal of her only extracurricular credit. Her Montecito clients are in a defensive frenzy over a rash of estate burglaries and, if her jobs keep making her tardy, she may not even graduate. To salvage her scholarship, Hal needs the help of Spencer Salazar, the dim, infuriating (and kinda hot) rich kid next door. To save her college prospects, she must restore the natural order of Yearbook Committee. To preserve her graduation eligibility, she needs a happy first period history teacher. And, ideally, she’ll avoid death by doberman. Now, in her non-existent spare time, Hal is adding private eye, matchmaker, and rat commando to her list of side gigs and wondering—maybe too late—if she misjudged the boy next door.

Review: In December I attended a local author event at my public library. It was nice to connect with a couple authors that I know well (one is married to an ex-student of mine and another is married to a fellow board member) and to discover a few new ones. This book is by one of the new-to-me authors and I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.

One of the most fun things about this book is that it is set in my town (Santa Barbara) with events taking place at my alma mater, in the neighborhood where I grew up (boy does she nail those Montecito folks!), and the neighborhoods and shops that I frequent now as an adult. She really captured the feel of our town.

Hallie works with pests as an employee of her dad's exterminator business. It's a great cover for seeing people's homes, looking for contraband, it gives her money that she is saving for college, and it gets her teased. And, if you grew up when I did, you'll totally appreciate that she drives the white truck with the big spider attached on the side (was that a national thing or just in Santa Barbara?).

This book uses Hallie's job as a spring board rather than a focus. It partially defines her, but she is also smart, a good friend, anxious about her future, and learning a ton about people. I think many teens will relate to Hallie and her troubles/exploits while adults will be reminded of their high school years. There is no over the top drama, to deep-dying love, no drugs, no sex, no drinking. Just a really good story.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Alphabet (Author)--F

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