My rating: 2 of 5 stars
“Death and the Girl Next Door” represents a smorgasbord of every YA paranormal stereotype there is and couples it with a bag of chips. Well, maybe not with a bag of chips, though I almost wish the chips were there, because then it would at least provide something different to the mix.
Long story short, I was quite disappointed with Darynda Jones’s start to her new YA series. That’s not to say that it didn’t have moments I thought were worth merit, but seriously, how many mediocre insta-love, antagonistic love triangle, specially endowed protagonist, boy-gushing books are we going to get out of this genre? There’s far more merit to the YA paranormal (even paranormal romance) genre in general than this, and so many releases as of late keep settling into the same generic lines like a paint by numbers book. I’m sad to say that “Death and the Girl Next Door” doesn’t deviate from that template. Not to mention the progression throughout this story was very rough in spurts before getting to some of the fruit this story had to bear.
Lorelei is a sophomore with a special gift – the ability to have odd visions when she touches people that she can’t always explain, but she’s known about them for a long time. So have her friends Glitch and Brooke. She’s also been coping with the odd disappearance of her parents from ten years ago as well. Things in her world begin to change when Cameron, the boy she’s grown up with for some time, suddenly starts stalking her, alongside a strange new boy who seems to captivate her attention (Jared). Suffice to say, Jared and Cameron do not get along and some turns of events reveal that they’re more extraordinary than Lorelei thought and fighting each other for reasons beyond themselves. The reason – primarily because of her, and the secrets behind her identity which will ultimately throw her world in a tailspin once it comes to light.
Original premise this is not. “Thrilling, sassy, sexy, and inventive” this isn’t either. Well, the sassy nature is there somewhat because Lorelei has a distinct voice that carries a certain hit or miss humor throughout the book. Sometimes it worked, bringing a chuckle out of me with references to Pigpen from Peanuts or something that struck a chord of familiarity to me. (The fact she calls her iMac “iPrecious” and the reference to the Lord of the Rings did make me grin.) And while I’m at it for describing things I liked – I liked both Glitch and Brooke’s personalities because they seem fun in their interactions with Lorelei. I also liked Lorelei’s grandparents, though they’re not featured that often in the work.
Lorelei generally has a sense of humor to kind of combat the craziness she faces in spurts. Othertimes, however, I thought the humor tried too hard and wasn’t funny at all.
It’s not funny when someone’s being stalked (as is insinuated when Lorelei notices that Cameron’s stalking her for the first time).
It’s not funny when someone gets hit by a truck, though I figured Lorelei was trying to buffer her reaction to the situation when she realized it had happened. (Though I got Twilight vibes when I read that particular scene, and it was confusing as all heck to follow because the narrative was so loopy during those turns of events. Don’t ask me where and why Cameron got a gun and started shooting at Jared when it seemed like he saved Lorelei’s life initially.)
Certainly not funny when Lorelei realizes that Jared’s was trying to kill her and did an about face and saved her life. Let me make this clear: he tried to KILL her. I don’t care how hot someone is, if they tried to kill me, I’d be either angry, scared, hurt, or concerned, not lusting. But what does she do? She swoons after him anyway. No real explanation given except that he’s all kinds of hot and contrary to knowing Cameron as long as she had, she’s more likely to hear Jared out because of his hotness. Insta-love in full swing.
I rolled my eyes quite a bit.
I know I may speak for myself when I say this, but the sinews and muscles of a male character don’t automatically make my eyes pop and send my amorous senses tingling, not even when I’m reading between YA and adult literature. It never has. I develop character crushes on how well the characters are defined, interact, and are shaped as people – that allows more character intimacy to shine through. It’s also contingent upon their experiences and how they react to/are shaped by them. Physical attributes might be a factor of attraction, and that’s fine, but it shouldn’t be the only factor. Here? I think Jared and Cameron struck me as the typical immortal enemies and Lorelei focused far more on Jared’s body and physical hotness and strength rather than really connecting to him as a being. Sure, later on she realizes what he is, but it isn’t really developed smoothly or as well as it could’ve been.
It took a long time for me to realize why Cameron hated Jared so much, and while it was a fair reason, the book not only took too long to reveal it, but was somewhat dismissive of it without much expansion, I felt. I think there was an attempt to make this a love triangle, but seriously Jared came out as the leading person in the race if that was the intention. Cameron was pretty much a background antagonist for a good bit of the narrative and it didn’t get much clearer as the book went on. There were other more obivious antagonists who played roles, such as the reporter who witnessed Lorelei’s accident and the fight between Jared and Cameron. Even still, I wasn’t as invested in the conflict as much as I think the narrative could’ve shown in spurts.
And then there’s the matter of Lorelei’s identity and role – that I think was where the book had its intriguing points, but even that came a bit too late in the narrative and I thought the development of it was threadbare. I think the very last part of it lent an interesting break point where it would lead into the next part of this series, but considering all the bumps in the road I had with reading this, I’m not so sure I want to continue reading on.
Overall, I thought “Death and the Girl Next Door” was a very derivative YA paranormal read and it didn’t really excite me in the aftermath, even with being my first read from Jones’s work. I’m apt to see if her other work strikes me more than this, but I think this could’ve been much more than what it presented itself.
Overall score: 1.5/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher St. Martin’s Press.