Age Range
Release Date
April 05, 2022
High school senior Hallie Mayhew spends her days traipsing from one lavish Montecito estate to the next...spraying ant poison. Between her dad’s pest control company, her mom’s pond cleaning service, and her side gig at a tourist hotspot in Santa Barbara, 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 weary of divorced-parent politics. So Hal has a plan: win the prestigious Verhaag Scholarship, go to an east coast school, and 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 has usurped the Yearbook Committee, depriving her of her only extracurricular credit. To make matters worse, 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. With her college plans rapidly derailing, Hal is forced to enlist the help of Spencer Salazar: the dim, infuriating (and kinda hot) rich kid next door. Hal’s willing to do anything to win the scholarship, but her side gigs are creating a tangled web that might keep her stuck in Santa Barbara forever, and now she’s wondering—maybe too late—if she misjudged the boy next door.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
Solid pick for Veronica Mars fans
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Hallie ‘Hal’ Mayhew is one busy senior. Between school, her main part-time job as a pest control technician for her father’s company, another part-time job with her mom’s company, and an occasional restaurant gig, she doesn’t have much time for anything else. Her sights are fixed on winning a local scholarship that would pay for her full tuition to a college far away from her Santa Barbara home and all the bugs and creatures she battles on a daily basis. When an unexpected change puts Hal’s chances of getting the scholarship in doubt, she is forced to recruit her nemesis, rich boy-next-door Spencer, to help. The more they work together, the more she sees that maybe Spencer isn’t who she thought he was.

What I Loved:

PEST does an incredible job capturing the life of a student who has to work. If Hal wants her dreams, or even her back up plans, to come true, she needs all the money she can get. As a pest control technician, she comes face to face with the realities of wealth gaps every day while she services rental properties and huge homes of the rich. On top of that, someone is stealing valuables from those same properties, and she’s frequently met with suspicion as a service worker. From the first chapter, it’s nearly impossible not to want Hal to succeed after everything she’s doing to get out of her hometown.

The romance is a bit of a slow burn, and I appreciated how Spencer and Hal came together. Hal had complete tunnel vision on the scholarship, and it caused her to not notice much happening around her. She made quick judgements that stuck, and later when her eyes are opened, she has to be brave and admit she was mistaken. They are a very cute pair, and I especially liked the waffle bit.

What Left Me Wanting More:

The ending felt really abrupt and a little confusing. It seemed like the story went from climax to resolution without any falling action in between. Hal’s actions at the end also seemed a little out of character given her growth over the story. Even just a chapter or two to better understand Hal’s headspace or why some obvious solutions weren’t an option would have gone a long way to clear the confusion. However, the ending does still wrap up all the story lines, so readers will leave with answers to all the big questions (including who took the yearbook supplies and where they were).

Final Thoughts:

While the ending didn’t work for me, I did enjoy PEST overall. The nuances of being a working class student, the high pressures high schoolers face about life after college, and the slow burn romance make PEST a good fit for fans of Veronica Mars and gritty contemporary fiction.

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