The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
Series: The Body Finder #1
Published by Harper Collins on 2010-03-16
Genres: Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world . . . and the imprints that attach to their killers.
Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find dead birds her cat left for her. But now that a serial killer is terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, Violet realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.
Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved by her hope that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer . . . and becoming his prey herself.
Thoughts: SLIGHTLY SPOILERY! This book started off so well. Derting had no qualms about showing violence and drinking and corpses – it was all slightly gruesome and ultra-realistic. I truly enjoyed the start. But once the annoying teen romance became disgustingly codependent and very unattractive, the flaws started to show. And I’m afraid The Body Finder descended into the deep, dark pit of cliche and boredom.
It’s such a shame, because The Body Finder could have been fantastic. I loved the main idea of the novel – a girl with unpleasant superpowers uses her gift in for good! She has parents that understand and support her, a best friend who understands and supports her, and some he-said-she-said romance to look forward to. It could have been a great murder mystery, without any annoyingly-avoidable teen angst.
And it was that, for about 150 pages.
But The Body Finder had some issues I couldn’t overlook. Some pretty serious ones. As soon as Violet starts dating her BFF-turned-love-of-her-life Jay (that can’t be a spoiler, right? even from the summary, you saw that one coming) he becomes almost parental. He starts meeting with her father to “discuss” her issues, while Violet’s sole focus in life becomes the friggin’ prom. Sure, the murders which dominated the first half of the book are important, but what-oh-what should she wear? Now let’s cuddle on the couch with Jay and consider what a nice guy he is.
My eyes were rolling so hard, something nearly broke.
Perhaps this annoying change in Violet and Jay could have been smoothed over by the excuse of first love and a fascinating mystery to focus on. Except, that murder mystery we’d all been enjoying? It also descends into the aforementioned dark pit of cliche. No motive for the villains – not even a slightly psychotic one. Hell, the villains are so generic, they aren’t even named! Literally, no names. “Oh, Violet, I’ll never forget the time you caught that murderer… He-who-was-never-named, was it?”
Oh, and we can add The Body Finder to the list of YA books that have sexual assault (not full-on rape, but non-consensual contact) go unpunished – in this case, actually forgiven by the main character. Not cool.
Bottom line? The Body Finder left a bad taste in my mouth. Although the book started off really well, I won’t be continuing with the series. However, Derting is a pretty decent writer and I could be coerced into reading something else by her… maybe.
Moonlight by Rachel Hawthorne
Series: Dark Guardian #1
Published by Harper Collins on 2009-03-03
Genres: Middle Grade
Source: Gifted from someone with/without taste
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Kayla is the nature lover, the all-American beauty who can't understand why she's so drawn to distant, brooding Lucas. Adopted as a young child, she has no way of knowing that she's inherited a terrifying - and thrilling - gene that will change her life forever.
Lucas is dangerous, gorgeous . . . and a werewolf. As leader of the Dark Guardians, shape-shifters who gather deep within the state park, he has sworn to protect his pack. But when Lucas finds his true soul mate, his love could put them all in harm's way. As Lucas and Kayla struggle with their feelings for each other, a greater danger lurks: Humans have discovered the Dark Guardians and are planning their destruction. Kayla must choose between the life she knows and the love she feels certain is her destiny.
Thoughts: There was just something… wrong with this book. There was nothing particularly bad about the writing, or even the plot – but there was just something about it that made it a rather uneventful read. But what exactly?
When I finished it – which took a while despite being a ludicrously easy read – I finally worked out what it was: it was a Middle Grade novel with a Young Adult plot.
The writing was just slightly too simple, the cover-ups too obvious, and the emotions underdeveloped. While this is understandable when your narrator is 12 – it is harder when she is a teen. And when the plot involves werewolves and undying love, there is a certain amount of maturity that you expect from the writing and the characters.
Bottom line? Skip it – even if you are a die-hard YA Romance lover. I don’t plan on getting the next books – life is too short to read books you a apathetic about.
The Scent of Shadows by Vicki Pettersson
Series: Sign of the Zodiac #1
Published by Harper Collins on 2009-10-13
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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When she was sixteen, Joanna Archer was brutally assaulted and left to die in the Nevada desert.By rights, she should be dead.Now a photographer by day, she prowls a different Las Vegas after sunset—a grim, secret Sin City where Light battles Shadow—seeking answers to whom or what she really is . . . and revenge for the horrors she was forced to endure.But the nightmare is just beginning—for the demons are hunting Joanna, and the powerful shadows want her for their own . . .
Rec for people who love: tortured heroines, completely unique universes, and a fair bit of blood and guts in their books!
Thoughts: I first saw this book at a second hand store over a year ago, and left it there because I couldn’t quite make out where it fell in the genre. No vampires, no witches, no werewolves. What exactly were these Shadow things supposed to be, anyhow? So I put it back, despite Kelley Armstrong’s quote claiming it would keep me up past my bed time.
A year later, same second-hand store, and they still hadn’t sold it. Marked down to 50p, I figured I could afford to give it a shot. And let’s just say, I wish I had picked it up when I first found it.
Pettersson throws us straight into the action – leaving us to work out the universe as Joanna does. It is a complicated one too, as we have zero frame of reference to go on. Put simply, this series is about a war between two superhero factions: the forces of Light and Shadow. Their battles are depicted in comic form after the fact, then sold to humans as fiction.
Had I understood this before starting, I likely wouldn’t have continued. While I appreciate the whole superhero thing, it just wouldn’t have enticed me enough to read it. But boy, would I have been wrong. Vicki Pettersson is a brutal writer. The blood, the sex, the cruelty just seeps out of the novel, unabashed and unashamed – much like Vegas itself. The setting is more than ideal for the horror of the novel, in fact, it might not have worked set anywhere else.
Joanna is a tortured heroine – for a change – and is damaged beyond belief. It makes her both tough and endearing, an odd combination to say the least. Considering the horror Pettersson subjects her to, you will be as surprised as I am that she does not spend the entire book in tears.
The action is brilliantly described, the writing nearly flawless, and the universe-building is gratifyingly natural. Joanna’s troupe is made up of very complex, unique characters – each with a story of their own. It’s a refined book, if one can say such a thing about horror, and a definite must – especially for those of you hoping to try something a bit new.