Book Review: Veronica Mars, The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line

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I have been in love with the show Veronica Mars ever since my high school journalism teacher recommended it to me. The show had already been off the air for awhile, so I watched the episodes on The WB’s website. I consumed them like cupcakes in a binge worthy fashion that even my post-Netflix self still cannot comprehend. I loved the show’s wit, its plots, the characters, everything.

When I learned there was going to be a Veronica Mars movie I was overjoyed. But honestly, I think I was even more excited to learn that there was going to be a book, continuing the plot where the movie left off. You see, as a kid I loved Nancy Drew, and Veronica is kind of like Nancy’s older and much cooler cousin. I’ve always thought that the plot would do well in book format. I was super excited that my friend gave me a copy of the first book for my birthday so I could find out if I was right. (Spoiler: Of course I was right.)

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line picks up about two months after the events of the Veronica Mars movie. We find Veronica trying to keep her father’s PI business afloat while he recovers from an accident that nearly killed him in the movie. Unfortunately for Veronica, Keith Mars is less than thrilled by what he considers his daughter “wasting her future” by returning to the life she left behind. Determined to prove that she belongs in this world, Veronica leaps at the chance to work on a big case.

A spring breaker in Veronica’s beachside town of Neptune has disappeared, and the local sheriff has done surprisingly little to find her. Concerned about the damage all the negative media will do to Neptune’s tourist revenue, the chamber of commerce hires Veronica to find out what happened. Veronica’s investigation leads her into the seedy underworld of Neptune’s drug trade, up the coast to Stanford, her alma mater, and, in a classic VM twist, back into her absentee mother’s life.

Personally, I really enjoyed this book. I thought that the story translated well to the book medium, and fans of the series will appreciate appearances by more minor but always fan favorite characters, including Dick Casablancas and Eli Navarro. The writing maintains a lot of that classic wit and sarcasm that the series was so well known for, and the plot has plenty of twists to keep you guessing.

However, I have read more than a few reviews criticizing author Rob Thomas’ choice to write the book in the third person point of view rather than the first. They claim it makes Veronica, already an aloof character at times, more distant and less engaging. On the show, voiceovers by Veronica were a frequent plot device to let viewers inside her head and also allow for Veronica to provide backstory and other information when needed, as well as the occasional witty barb.

While I can understand that this might lead some to believe a first person point of view was the way to go in order to maintain that connection to the inner workings of Veronica’s mind, I think Thomas and co author Jennifer Graham made the right choice to stick with third person. There is plenty of non dialogue text that focuses on Veronica’s thoughts, giving the reader just as much, if not more, insight, as it also manages to encompass some of the information given by other characters. I think it also makes for a smoother reading book, given the number of backstories necessary to set the scene.

For those who have never seen the show, though, I’m not sure I can give this book my full recommendation. While there is enough backstory provided that non marshmallows (a term for VM fans) certainly won’t be lost, I think it would be much harder to appreciate some of Veronica’s choices without knowing about her high school and early college days that the show covered.

So, basically, what I’m saying is this: Go watch all three seasons. Then watch the movie. And then read the book.

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