Today, I'm reviewing No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale. This was a book I really wanted to like, but I had some issues with the characterizations...
YA Contemporary/Contemporary Thursday is where we review the latest and greatest contemporary titles!
Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: January 7th 2014 by HarperTeen
Format read: E-ARC via publisher
Contemporary mysteries generally aren't all that common in the YA genre these days. Most of the YA "mystery" books that I've over the past year have generally included tech or financial subplots instead, a la Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
So when I heard that No One Else Can Have You had been pitched as Twin Peaks meets Fargo, my interest was definitely piqued. And on paper, the plot of the book definitely seemed pretty solid:
After Ruth Friend is found horrifically murdered in the small town of Friendship, Wisconsin, her best friend Kippy decides to use some of her good 'ole midwest gumption and Ruth's secret diary to try and solve the crime. Along the way, Kippy discovers that the almost everyone in her small town has something to hide...
Awesome and intriguing, right?
But once I got my hands on the ARC and started reading, my excitement started gradually dying down. Because No One Else Can Have You is in a word... strange.
The book starts off promisingly enough, with a description of Ruth's murder that is both terrifying and horrifying. However, it quickly transitions into Kippy's first person POV, and she's not really the type of person whose head you necessarily want to be stuck in for too long.
She's quirky, awkward and generally spends her time behaving in a way that will likely have readers cringing in secondhand embarrassment every time she makes a strange decision - e.g. her "eulogy" at Ruth's funeral.
Even when she starts focusing on actually solving the murder, Kippy continues to make the type of strange decisions that definitely had me questioning her intelligence - e.g. her attempts to go undercover. Her awkward decisions were generally made worse by the fact that the secondary characters that she interacts with, all resembled something out of an SNL's skit on what people in the Midwest are like.
Throw in the fact that we also very quickly discover that certain other characters just what aren't they seem - and honestly, are a lot nastier than expected - it kind of felt like Hale was just ticking off the stereotypes of these small towns, as the story progressed.
While Hale does do a great job of ratcheting up the tension and the suspense with her writing even through these strange and awkward points, the climax (and the murderer) is telegraphed so early on, I got to the end and just went, "Ah, I expected that." There was really no surprise or that eureka! moment that I like in my mysteries.
So between the unlikable heroine, the bizarre murder, and the plethora of Midwestern stereotypes, I was left with the...
However, I will say that if you're interested in the book, you should definitely still go ahead and read it. It's not that often that we have a YA book set in a small town in Wisconsin, and the experience of reading about these characters - as strange as it may be - may be worth it for the reading experience alone.
Also, please note: there are discussions of domestic violence and related issues in the book, which I do believe that some readers will react strongly too. I wrote off a lot of those discussions as (unfortunate) quirk, but please be aware of this before you begin reading.
Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC of No One Else Can Have You from the publisher via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!