Last summer, I watched a British television mystery called Glue. Let’s just gloss over the fact that the way I viewed the program was not exactly Kosher in that it wasn’t available on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime. But, I digress….
Anyway, Glue is a mystery mini-series on Britain’s Ch. 4 (let’s not gloss over the fact that European television is far less stodgy in creating shows about teens who curse and have sex, unlike American network television that is still largely puritanical –unless it’s violence because apparently that’s totally fine) that ran in 2014. It centers around 14-year-old Cal, a Romani kid, who is found murdered in the English countryside, and his friends who become embroiled in the mystery. Everybody has secrets. Everyone lies. But only one committed the murder. It’s quite compelling and I binge-watched the entire series in a few days. And my always suspicious mind didn’t call out the killer until the reveal, so bravo British television. You fooled this girl.
Most recently, CW released Riverdale, an intriguing murder mystery centered around the characters of the famous Archie comics. If Twitter, and ratings, is anything to go by, Riverdale has really taken off.
Shows like this have an addictive quality. A good detective drama is great, but there is something so delicious about a large cast of characters with interconnected secrets they’re all desperate to keep. It’s the reason soap operas are so popular. But unlike soaps, shows like Glue and Riverdale really bring young characters into the fold. They become the center story; the murder is just the mechanism in which to spill their secrets. And the narrative isn’t really about the victim as much as it is about the young people who are still around — those whose lives are irrevocably changed by the bad choices they’ve made. Because teens screw up. A lot. They don’t have life experience to guide them, and so we pity them, even when they do pretty despicable things. It truly makes for compelling television.
And more importantly, it’s an excellent lesson for writing compelling fiction. My brain is swarming with ideas on how to recreate a Glue narrative for a young adult novel. A page-turner as bingeable as the television show I had to scour the internet to watch.