July 09, 2024

It’s Elementary

By Elise Bryant
Review by
Elise Bryant’s It’s Elementary is a hilarious and ambitious cozy mystery set in the emotionally charged environment of a local PTA.
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Elise Bryant explores PTA politics and just how far parents will go for their children in It’s Elementary, her engaging cozy mystery debut.

Mavis Miller is juggling a lot: She’s a single mom, raising her 7-year-old daughter, Pearl, with long-distance support from her ex; she’s overworked and underappreciated at her nonprofit job; and she’s navigating living with her retired dad again after many years on her own. So when PTA President Trisha Holbrook asks Mavis to head up a new diversity, equity and inclusion committee for Knoll Elementary School, Mavis declines—repeatedly. But Trisha is tenacious and eventually convinces Mavis to join the PTA to effect real change, especially for the few children of color at the school, like Pearl.

The first meeting Mavis attends is surprisingly charged: Trisha and Thomas Smith, the new principal, butt heads over whether Knoll Elementary should become a school for “gifted students” and turn away children with lower test scores. That night, Mavis spots Trisha lugging suspiciously heavy trash bags and cleaning supplies to her minivan. When Principal Smith fails to show up to school the next day, Mavis wonders if Trisha snapped and took her position as PTA president as a license to kill. With the help of Jack, the school psychologist, Mavis sets out to find the missing principal.

Genre fans may deduce many of It’s Elementary’s twists, but it’s an ambitious and delightful read nonetheless. Bryant tackles big issues—racism, the complexities of co-parenting, gentrification, bullying and even the difficulties of making friends as an adult—with humor and heart, expertly threading these topics through an entertaining story full of genuinely funny observations.

Mavis is our relatable guide through it all: She’s generous, funny, devoted to Pearl and stretched far too thin. She’s also surrounded by a stellar cast of supporting characters, led by Jack, Pearl, and Jasmine, Mavis’ best friend. Readers will enjoy navigating PTA politics with Mavis and crew in this hilarious and energetic mystery.

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It’s Elementary

It’s Elementary

By Elise Bryant
ISBN 9780593640784

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