DEATH AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR
Paranormal Young Adult
St. Martin's Press
Received from publisher via NetGalley for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Ten years ago,
Lorelei's parents disappeared without a trace. Raised by her
grandparents and leaning on the support of her best friends, Lorelei is
finally beginning to accept the fact that her parents are never coming
home. For Lorelei, life goes on.
High school is not quite as
painful as she thinks it will be, and things are as normal as they can
be. Until the day the school's designated loner, Cameron Lusk, begins
to stalk her, turning up where she least expects it, standing outside
her house in the dark, night after night. Things get even more
complicated when a new guy—terrifying, tough, sexy Jared Kovach—comes to
school. Cameron and Jared instantly despise each other and Lorelei
seems to be the reason for their animosity. What does Jared know about
her parents? Why does Cameron tell Jared he can't have Lorelei? And
what will any of them do when Death comes knocking for real?
sassy, sexy, and inventive, Darynda Jones's first foray into the world
of teens will leave readers eager for the next installment.
Death and the Girl Next Door is a bit of a surprising read, the synopsis preparing us for a very familiar setup as we assume a love triangle is imminent between Lorelei, new stalker Cameron, and new student in general Jared, but instead we are refreshingly treated to an entirely different dynamic that has us devouring the pages like word consumption addicts. While Jared and Cameron are both competitive to a fault, the conflict causing them to continually and violently clash is thankfully not romantic in nature, allowing us to breathe a sigh of relief even as our anticipation over the true cause of their seemingly mutual hatred grows each time they face off. Every time we worry the story may be crossing into well-known territory, Ms. Jones either throws a road block in our paths to force us to change direction or she has one of her highly entertaining characters charmingly mock whatever situation they’ve found themselves in, thus ensuring we’re either too surprised or too amused to grow complacent.
Lorelei is a joy of a main character, an often self-deprecating woman with wit in spades who has us easily wrapped around her finger in the opening chapters. She at times exhibits typical teenage girl behavior, namely an intense appreciation for Jared’s physical attributes and the effect those attributes have on the butterflies currently taking up residence in her belly, but she prefaces these moments of swooning with a warning to us as readers that we’re about to witness what she calls a “sad part”, something that consists of heart palpitations and general feelings of fluffiness from her burgeoning crush. She’s absurdly adorable and manages to keep calm under stressful situations, and even on the rare occasion when that calm evaporates, she owns up to her reactions and takes responsibility for the mistakes she makes when she acts out of fear.
The highlight of this story is by far the relationship between Lorelei and best friends Brooke and Glitch, friends she’s had since elementary school who match her sparkling wit with enormous personalities of their own. They have a camaraderie that feels authentic and utterly genuine, the easy banter they toss back and forth attesting to the length of their friendship, and we are instantly at ease with all three of them knowing the casual insults they pass back and forth will never be taken as anything other than what was intended. They have no secrets from one another (except for one I believe may exist on Glitch’s part with regard to his feelings for Brooke) and it never once occurs to any of them to keep any information, however extraordinary or unbelievable it may seem, to themselves, instead opting to include the other two in anything and everything they do.
The only minor criticism of this humorous and engrossing first installment is the story at times seems to jump quickly from one plot point to another; a few extra spokes existing in the larger plot wheel than are necessary to move the story forward. There’s a brief snippet with a poltergeist causing problems for two of Lorelei’s classmates that feels a touch superfluous, and we can’t help but want to do away with any such small impediments that keep us from getting back to Jared and his relationship to both Lorelei and Cameron. Overall though, Death and the Girl Next Door is fun and flirty but not without an edge of darkness to balance the light, and Darynda Jones has just become an auto-buy author for me with this hugely gratifying young adult debut.