Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Format: Paperback, 274 pages
Darynda Jones, author of The New York Times bestselling series that began with First Grave on the Right, brings us Death and the Girl Next Door, a thrilling Young Adult novel garnering high praise and early buzz from major authors
Ten years ago, Lorelei's parents disappeared without a trace. Raised by her grandparents and leaning on the support of her best friends, Lorelei is finally beginning to accept the fact that her parents are never coming home. For Lorelei, life goes on.
High school is not quite as painful as she thinks it will be, and things are as normal as they can be. Until the day the school's designated loner, Cameron Lusk, begins to stalk her, turning up where she least expects it, standing outside her house in the dark, night after night. Things get even more complicated when a new guy—terrifying, tough, sexy Jared Kovach—comes to school. Cameron and Jared instantly despise each other and Lorelei seems to be the reason for their animosity. What does Jared know about her parents? Why does Cameron tell Jared he can't have Lorelei? And what will any of them do when Death comes knocking for real? Thrilling, sassy, sexy, and inventive, Darynda Jones's first foray into the world of teens will leave readers eager for the next installment.
The following is based on an eARC the publisher provided to me via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
Review (no spoilers):
I really enjoyed this book, though it was very different from what I had expected when I picked it up. I was under the impression that it’s a Reaper story, but it’s actually not. Not really anyway, or not in the way I had supposed. Instead, the novel both taps into and builds on a kind of mythological background I hadn’t anticipated but was definitely intrigued by! I can’t say too much about it because of spoilers but I’m really curious to see this develop and unfold in the next book now that the cards are on the table, so to speak.
I found Lorelei likeable and easy to relate to. Despite her strange and unreliable ability (she sometimes gets short visions or glimpses when she touches people) she is just a regular teenager, hanging out with her friends and trying to make it through highschool while trying not to think about the ten-year-anniversary of her parents’ mysterious disappearance too much. She’s strong but she also has flaws and insecurities. One of my favorite aspects in the book was the dynamic between her and her two best friends, Glitch and Booklyn. Especially Brooke because she was so snarky and called bullshit when she saw it. The three of them really stick together no matter what and had each others’ backs. I also really liked that Lorelei’s grandparents played such an important role because quite often in YA, the protagonists’ parents/families are very marginal or absent.
When Cameron Lusk, the school loner, starts stalking Lorelei and standing outside her house all night, she is really freaked out and doesn’t know how to react or how to confront him. And when Jared, the new guy at school, gives her visions which are impossible and warm, fuzzy feelings despite the fact that there’s also an aura of danger added to the hotness of his perfect features, things move into the weird and mysterious fast. Why can’t Cameron and Jared be in the same room (much less talk) without breaking into a fight? What do they know about Lorelei that she doesn’t? Which one of them is dangerous for her and which one tries to protect her – and from whom? What really happened the day Lorelei’s parents disappeared and why can she not remember? Why are both Cameron and Jared so strong?
Another thing I had more or less resigned myself to after reading the book description was a love triangle. I’m not a big fan of those usually. So I’m glad to say that Darynda Jones manages to pull a two-guys-one-girl story off without one! The Romance between Jared and Lorelei starts with an instant attraction but it’s not insta-love. She’s interested and she crushes, also because the now hottest guy in school seems to have eyes for her only. But she doesn’t fancy herself head over heels in love with him even though she barely knows him and is certain that he’s hiding something. I really liked Jared. Being who and what he is isn’t easy and I found it adorable that for once, the super-hot guy is kinda shy and embarrassed about the reaction he gets from the female part of the student body. He doesn’t sport the cocky attitude most gorgeous boys in YA have. He’s on a mission, committed and ready to make sacrifices. He really cares about Lorelei a lot, enough to risk losing all of his power. But he’s not a goody-goody either. The characters generally emerged as well fleshed-out, complex people over the course of the novel and each had a clearly distinguishable voice.
I know I’ve been vague about the plot and what actually happens in the novel, but that is because it’s nearly impossible to talk about it without spoilers. Let it be said that there’s loads of action, mystery, investigating, and discovering things about the past. However, after an important, long action scene near the beginning, things drag a little and we see nothing of Cameron and Jared while Lorelei puzzles over them. That frustrated me a bit. But once Lorelei and her friends find the two guys again, things get moving once more and there are no more draggy bits until the end. Seriously, I found it hard to put the book down to get some much-needed sleep. It’s just so compelling to read on! And I want to talk about all the spoilery stuff and discuss it with other people who have already read the book so I can speculate about what’s going to happen. Because though I had an idea of who was who and what was happening, there were quite a few turns at the end when things are revealed that I just never saw coming. At all. But they made perfect sense in the story.
Two minor things: in some scenes Lorelei was a bit too innocent or naïve for my taste, and the way she and Brooke sometimes talked about Jared’s hotness and objectified him rubbed me a bit the wrong way. It was mostly just at the beginning but I felt the need to point it out. Why does the guy-crush always have to be defined primarily by his hotness while the girl is unaware of her own appeal? Fortunately, Jared also had other traits to make him awesome and didn’t care/know about the effect of his appearance.
So overall I really liked Death and the Girl Next Door. The writing kept me hooked, it was witty, action-filled, and I had fun trying to figure things out. The romance took a bit longer to develop than I’d thought but then it took off and there were also some steamish bits, though nothing too extreme. The important characters are well-developed. The mythological world-building background was easily my favorite part though because it picked up on an aspect I hadn’t heard of before, and I’m curious to see things continue in the next installment of the series!
Find Darynda Jones on Twitter Facebook Website
Find Darynda Jones on Twitter Facebook Website
Have you read Death and the Girl Next Door? What was your impression? And if not, do you think this book is for you? Have you read Darynda Jones' adult books? Because I'm curious about them now...