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We Review Two YA Murder Mysteries

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Here are reviews for a couple of YA murder mysteries, one of which hit the spot and garnered five stars, the other a big disappointment. Thanks, Li for all the hard work and providing some very entertaining insight. Read on for more:

You Owe Me a Murder by Eileen Cook

I picked this up because it had Strangers on a Train vibes, and I got way more than I was expecting. (Disclaimer - I have not read or seen Strangers, so maybe I got exactly what I should have been expecting!)

It’s hard to review this one, without giving things away. The synopsis: 17-year-old Kim never expected to plot a murder. But that was before her boyfriend dumped her for another girl. Now, Kim’s stuck on a class trip to London with him and his new soulmate and she can’t help wishing he was a little bit dead, even if she’d never really do that.

 But when Kim meets Nicki, a stranger on the plane who’s more than willing to listen to Kim’s woes, things start to look up. Nicki's got a great sense of humor, and when she jokes about swapping murders, Kim plays along—that is, until Kim’s ex-boyfriend mysteriously dies.

 Blackmailed by Nicki to fulfill her end of the deal, Kim will have to commit a murder or take the fall for one - which gives you the basics, and the story follows along.

However… This was way more nuanced and fleshed out than I expected! I was expecting more of a soft, romance focused, basic teen book. What I got was more than one moment where I was surprised, and that’s awesome! There is romance, but it’s not all super overwhelming - in fact, it’s almost more… the main character trying to juggle a new friendship that might turn into a romance, while also trying to not be framed for murder. So less mushy gushy, and more… real.

Content Warnings: graphic descriptions of death, discussions of suicide, discussions of domestic abuse (not so much physical), mental health issues, threats, talk of allergic reactions, graphic description of animal death (wild rabbit vs car). Overall Rating: 5 stars

The Island by Natasha Preston


Okay, so this book had promise. It was a nice, short, relatively easy to read YA murder mystery. The plot was good: four ** influencers have been recruited to spend a weekend at a high-end theme park on an island, as publicity for the park before it opens. Of course, things start to unravel when people start dying. Our intrepid influencers (wow, I couldn’t even keep the sarcasm out for a whole paragraph) must try and survive the killer; or find him; or hide; or bring world peace? Okay, that last one was more sarcasm, but this is where the book started to go downhill.

First up, this is not a book for people who don’t like a lot of characters to keep track of. There is the elusive, brooding millionaire owner of the island; his assistant; four influencers; two cute but suspicious male staff; a chef… there may be more but even that was too many to keep track of for me, I think because most weren’t present the entire time, or got killed too soon, or were just so freaking similar to each other that they blurred together. And yes, I have read GOT (Game of Thrones), and yes, I did struggle there too. But that’s epic fantasy, and this is YA Murder Mystery.

The pacing of the book was also weird. The party kept splitting - two people would go here, then two there, then most would come back together and then two different people would go elsewhere. It was like trying to untangle a ball of yarn, and NOT in the fun murderboard way.

Half the characters felt rushed. We learned about our MC, and her crushes, but not much at all about the guy who BROUGHT THEM TO THE ISLAND, or the other three influencers (except the stand-in “best friend” trope).

And the ending. I’ll give you my overall rating on the book here, in case you want to read it, because here come the spoilers.

Content warnings - death, gore, blood.

Spoiler Free Overall Rating: 3 stars (at a push) 2 stars, see addendum re: how many people!

*** I went to Goodreads to see what others thought - there are 5 influencers. Whoops. See, that’s how un-interesting they were.

Here be spoilers, so stop reading here if you want.

The ending. Okay. So one of the masters of horror has had some truly horrific endings, so I get it, it can happen to anyone. But the big reveal happens within the last 20 pages of the book. Of course one of the love interests is the BigBad - and the nephew of the millionaire. And I understand the “best friend” also being a BigBad (“we’re going to be a modern day Bonnie and Clyde” *ralphs*). But boy oh boy was that even more rushed! I’m talking One. Page. That’s all the time we had for that reveal, because the rescuers had arrived! Yay, our final two are going to survive!

Nope. This is not an exact quote, I don’t have the book on me, but:  “As I reached for the rope, I felt someone hit me from behind. I saw Robert as he wrapped his arms around me. It was the last thing I saw before we fell into the water and everything went dark.”

Come. ON! This is just lazy, and makes the whole book feel cheap and pointless. Like why even bother. I get killing characters, and I even get killing MAIN characters. But this feels like “and then I woke up and it was all a dream” levels of uck.

So, really, Overall Rating: 1 Star. Because it is a book.

 Posted by Li

25 January 2024

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