Happy YA contemporary Thursday, Reading Nook Readers!
Today, I'm reviewing Katie Alender's creepy Hollywood murder-mystery Famous Last Words.
It's a nice blend of Hollywood glitz and the darker grit that lies beneath, and I generally enjoyed the story - even if it did occasionally feel just a tad predictable at times!
Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: September 30th 2014 by Point
Format read: Finished copy via publisher
Meanwhile, a killer is stalking Los Angeles -- a killer who reenacts famous movie murder scenes. Could Willa's strange visions have to do with these unsolved murders? Or is she going crazy? And who can she confide in? There's Marnie, her new friend who may not be totally trustworthy. And there's Reed, who's ridiculously handsome and seems to get Willa. There's also Wyatt, who's super smart but unhealthily obsessed with the Hollywood Killer.
All Willa knows is, she has to confront the possible-ghost in her house, or she just might lose her mind . . . or her life.
Which is why I was highly anticipating Famous Last Words. It seemed like a classic ghost story with a nice Hollywood twist, and I knew that Katie Alender wouldn't steer me wrong. Her Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer was one of those books I thought I'd find strange, but actually really enjoyed for its inventiveness.
In Famous Last Words, Alender introduces us to Willa, a reluctant east coast transplant who has just moved to L.A. with her mother and new film director stepfather. She's definitely having a hard time adjusting - she's not used to the superficiality that goes along with her new Hollywood lifestyle, and she's also still struggling with her father's untimely death from several years ago.
If that isn't enough, there is now a Hollywood-inspired serial killer on the loose and Willa's house is haunted. She's increasingly seeing and hearing things that make no sense, but all seem to point to a single message…
From the very first page, Alender draws the reader into Willa's new and increasingly creepy world, and doesn't let go. We learn very quickly that despite the glitz and glamour of her new Hollywood life, there is something incredibly dark and sinister finding its way across the city, and into Willa's life.
Alender does a nice job of showing how Willa deals with the increasingly dangerous circumstances of her new life - including attempted drownings and violent poltergeist visits - and how she works with both the environment (psychic readings!) and her newfound relationships (cute but weird guy from class!) to try and get to the bottom of things.
The mystery of the ghost and the Hollywood Killer builds throughout the book into an effortless crescendo, as Willa continues to uncover elements that makes her realize that things are more entwined than she originally realized. There were moments where I was seriously freaked out by what Willa was experiencing - a feeling I'm sure other readers will also feel.
Outside of the mystery, Alender also peppers her writing with subtle humor and snark, which ensures the story doesn't get too melodramatic. I loved Willa's wry observations on the superficiality of her environment and new friend, and her firm admonitions to her mother to not become a blonde. There's a definite sense that despite everything that's happening, Willa and her mother are getting over past traumas, and they're going to be okay.
My one issue with Famous Last Words, was the fact that the ending felt a little too typical for a ghost story of this genre. I basically guessed who the killer was at the fifty percent mark, and my instincts turned out to be right.
But even with that degree of predictability, this was a fun, creepy read that kept me entertained and has totally gotten me in the mood for Halloween. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who's looking for a good ghost story to entertain them for a few hours.
Willa's determination to figure out the mystery of the Hollywood Killer, along with her personal struggles to come to terms with both the ghost and the trauma of her own past, was an intriguing premise made all the better by Katie Alender's smart writing choices and fast-paced dialogue. I felt like I was sleuthing right alongside Willa, as she figured out the extent of her new world, and her role in the Hollywood murders.
I highly recommend this book for fans of Courtney Smith and Hilary Monahan. I also recommend this book for fans of YA contemporary fiction and YA supernatural tales. This is the perfect tale to get you in the mood for the Halloween - go get it now!
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About the author:
Katie Alender is the acclaimed author of several novels for young adults, including the Bad Girls Don't Die series and MARIE ANTOINETTE, SERIAL KILLER. A graduate of the Florida State University Film School, Katie now lives in Los Angeles with her husband, her daughter, and her very spoiled dog, Winston. She enjoys reading, sewing, and eating delicious high-calorie foods. To find out more about Katie visit www.katiealender.com.