By Darynda Jones
Available now from St. Martin's Griffin
I wanted to read Darynda Jones' first foray into young adult fiction because of its awesome title. DEATH AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR sounds like a morbid screwball comedy, doesn't it? That's not a description of the book, just so you know, although the title is fitting.
Lorelei can see visions when she touches people, sometimes. She just got the strangest one yet from Jared Kovach, the new boy in school. But while he's arrived suddenly, loner Cameron Lusk already seems to know and hate him. Both boys keep running into Lorelei on the tenth anniversary of her parents' disappearance and something quite remarkable is about to happen.
Are you fleeing in terror from the dreaded love triangle? Fear not! Lorelei and Jared are very into each other, but Cameron's got a different romance going on. In fact, there is a bit of a love triangle, but it's centered around Lorelei's best female friend Brooklyn. Their other best friend, Glitch, is clearly into Brooklyn and dislikes her budding flirtation with Cameron. Plus, Glitch and Cameron had a mysterious run-in with each other on a second-grade camping trip that's left lingering bad feelings.
I took awhile to get into DEATH AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR. For the first couple of chapters, I had trouble parsing Jones' sentences. I think it was more because I was distracted by the Olympics than a fault in prose. I was also turned off by Lorelei's repeated descriptions of her looks. Jones didn't seem to be going for a secretly beautiful thing - Lorelei is short and pixie-looking, just as she complains. Okay, she's clearly pretty, but not beautiful. Anyway, she must goes on and on about how she hates her looks far too many times.
Things really get going once Lorelei gets hit by a car. She, Brooklyn, and Glitch determine that they must get to the bottom of Cameron and Jared's damage. (And, y'know, figure out how Lorelei survived.) Brooklyn and Glitch are both awesome characters, so I'm glad they don't disappear once paranormal things start happening. Brooklyn is five-feet-nothing of attitude and Glitch (AKA Casey Niyol Blue-Spider) stands by his friends even though he's not as big or strong as the things their facing.
I felt like the plot of DEATH AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR hopped around a lot. There's figuring out just who and what everyone is, two girls at school who are acting strange and need help, and a sinister news crew to escape. I liked that Jones didn't labor herself to withhold answers from the audience or suddenly stop in the middle of the climax to create anticipation for the next book. I'm not saying she should change that. But there could've been more shape to the story.
DEATH AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is a good choice for readers who like YA urban fantasy and paranormal romance but are tired of love triangles. It's one of the better angel books I've read too. Angels are tricky to work with. But DEATH AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR avoids my major gripe with angel books, which is a refusal to acknowledge any sort of metaphysics. There's a Heaven, there's a Hell, and the prayers of believers have power. Jones draws on Judeo-Christian mythology, but doesn't attach a religion to the angels. On the whole, DEATH AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is uneven, but I'm looking forward to whatever happens next.