By Kimberly Derting
Available now from HarperTeen (Harper Collins)
One of the great things about young adult books is the fact that they can use the trappings of almost any genre. Yet romantic suspense is rarely represented. I think part of the problem is the darkness Kimberly Derting said she worried about in my interview with her. Romantic suspense, especially if it involves a serial killer, lives and dies by the serial killer. A lame motive can ruin a good story.
Derting knocks it out of the park with her killer, who narrates scenes between chapters. His passages are chilling not only because of Derting's skill in crafting a killer's consciousness, but also because of how empathetic the victims are. In a few brief pages, Derting makes you sorry that a character is going to die. If you like stories like the classic noir THE KILLER INSIDE ME by Jim Thompson, then you'll love Derting's killer.
As for the romantic elements, Jay and Violet are incredibly cute. They're best friends who are clearly into each other (especially to others), but afraid that the other doesn't see them the same way. I love how her friends - Chelsea, Jules, and Claire - react to Jay and Violet's drama, particularly Chelsea's not-always-helpful snarking. The romance and high school scenes add levity and hope to counter the darkness.
Of course, YA can also blend genres. THE BODY FINDER contains paranormal elements as well. Violet is compelled to find murdered bodies, including small animals who were eaten for dinner. (Truly a case of Blessed with Suck.) She can also sense matching echoes that mark the killer, even if the killer is someone who acted in self-defense like her police chief uncle.
As more teen girls die, Violet decides to use her ability to help the police. As others wisely point out, this puts her in danger of attracting the killer herself - or running into other murderers.
Derting combines an interesting premise, an intriguing mystery, and an absorbing romance to good effect in THE BODY FINDER. This is a powerful debut and I expect good things of the sequel.