By Karen Healey
Expected publication September 5th, 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Karen Healey's debut made a bit of a splash upon publication last year. I haven't had a chance to pick it up yet, but I did manage to snag an advance copy at ALA's annual conference in June. It seemed like this was one of the highly anticipated new novels around the conference and around the YA blogworld. I was pretty excited to delve into it and see what all the hype might have been about.
Since an early age, Keri has planned for all possibilities - she knows how to survive in most situations and is prepared for disasters most people don't acknowledge could happen. But after her brother's recent suicide, she doesn't feel like that person anymore. So when her old childhood friend Janna and "tourist" Sione, both of whom also had older brothers die, approach her with their suspicions that the boys were actually murdered, Keri embraces their theory. The three set out to discover the truth behind the deaths that rocked their worlds.
I really enjoyed this novel. It felt like a good old horror film. I don't want to give too much away but the way the plot unfolds is in the fashion of a certain kind of traditional horror movie - a small, idyllic town that may be a little too perfect and a dark secret that conspirators refuse to acknowledge. And, unlike a recent adult novel I read (Burnt Mountain by Anne Rivers Siddons), the direction that Healey takes with the plot seems natural and well-done, not last-minute and confusing. Healey does a really excellent job of building suspense throughout the story and maintaining a great pace that keeps readers engaged and involved. I also like that Healey writes what she knows and introduces readers to new cultures - this book is populated with a variety of characters representing the diverse ethnic groups that populate New Zealand - and Healey provides a cultural glossary at the end of the novel to help unfamiliar readers understand the language and customs they may not be familiar with. Healey's characters are all well-done - they are all unique and fully developed and interesting. Keri and Janna are both wonderfully complex female characters and Sione provides a very interesting contrast to them. I really don't have anything bad to say about this novel. I can't wait to go back and read her debut - I think she is an author to watch.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.