THE BODY FINDER (The Body Finder #1)
Paranormal Young Adult
For as long as she can remember Violet has been able to to sense the dead. When she was little it was mostly small animals she was drawn to, picking up their fragile bodies and burying them in proper graves by her home, a gesture which always brought her a sense of peace. At the age of eight however, Violet found the body of a young girl buried in the woods, and it's a discovery that haunts her still.
Luckily for Violet, she has a family who doesn't think she's a freak, and a best friend who has been there for her regardless of her strange gift. Recently, however, something between her and Jay has changed. He's different, more grown up, and she is definitely attracted to him which is a complete and utter disaster since they're best friends.
If this new development weren't enough, Violet's ability to sense the dead is thrust to the forefront when she stumbles across another young girl's body in a lake. More girls end up going missing, and consequently more bodies are turning up, forcing Violet to join the search to help locate the young women as she takes it upon herself to help find the person who's destroying so many lives. Only Violet isn't the only one on the hunt, and it becomes glaringly apparent the killer has taken notice of her and will stop at nothing to add her to his macabre collection.
The Body Finder is a book that ceases to be merely an inanimate object lying innocently in our laps and becomes an entity that appears to be in possession of an extrasensory perception like its main character, transforming itself from simple ink and paper into a story that seems to know us on a personal level and draws us into its world like we're old friends. There's little opportunity to stay detached as we quickly get swept up in the nervous energy sparking like static electricity between Violet and Jay, and despite the not entirely original romantic scenario, we can't help but be involved, wanting desperately to spend a few moments in Jay's head to see if his emotions are as frayed and tangled as ours and Violet's. Then, while we're hopelessly consumed by the palpable tension, Ms. Derting flawlessly threads a mystery through the romance, creating a story with not just one layer but several, thereby more successfully holding our interest as we are forced to snap out of our passionate cocoon to try to find a killer.
Part of the appeal of The Body Finder is the developing romance between not just an average girl and the unbelievably good looking popular boy, but, far more interestingly, between longtime best friends, resulting in a relationship where the tension exists on multiple levels. Not only is there the physical awkwardness and hypersensitivity to any intentional or accidental contact, but there's the added anxiety that should the attraction be unrequited, the loss would be twofold: the potential romance and, more painfully, the friendship itself. Reading as the gestures, mannerisms, and quirks that used to be familiar and innocent to Violet transform into elements increasingly foreign and unexpected is an exquisite torture, one we have no desire to escape free of pain but rather wish to continue subjecting ourselves to, wearing the emotional markers of this complicated connection with the utmost pride.
The mystery element of this story is particularly well-done as Ms. Derting slices through the visceral thickness of our tension-filled haze and infects our growing euphoria with chilling reminders that there is more to this story than a teenage love connection. Interspersed are short chapters from the killer's perspective, his icy coolness a brutal slap in the face after the radiating warmth of Violet and Jay, and his cruelty and brutality is only further emphasized when it's so skillfully immersed in the sweetness and innocence of a budding passion. Perhaps the only drawback to a fascinating and suspenseful tale is the rather lackluster reveal of the murderer, the subtle intensity of the buildup leading us to expect a more shocking unveiling than the one we're given. That flaw aside, the combination of mystery and youthful affection is a successful one, leaving our hearts pounding in our chests and our stomachs in knots for a multitude of reasons.
The Body Finder is fast-paced, seamlessly blending moments of nerve-wracking action with quiet moments between Violet and Jay that leave us embarrassingly weak in the knees when we attempt to stand and extricate ourselves from the story to return to real life. It also serves to stand on its own in a time when we are plagued with cliffhanger endings, making itself shine a little brighter in our eyes just for leaving us so completely satisfied.