Title: The Body Finder
Author: Kimberly Derting
Hardcover: 336 pages
Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world . . . and the imprints that attach to their killers.
Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find dead birds her cat left for her. But now that a serial killer is terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, Violet realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.
Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved by her hope that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer . . . and becoming his prey herself. (description from IndieBound.com)
- Overall rating: 9/10
Romantic, intense, and suspenseful! Those are the first three words that come to mind when describing Kimberly Derting's impressive debut novel, The Body Finder. Part heart-pounding suspense and part heart-racing romance, readers will find themselves unable to put this book down! Set in a small town in western Washington, this romantic thriller seamlessly blends romance and mystery as a teenage girl uses her unusual paranormal ability in an attempt to trace the imprints left by a serial killer before he strikes again. A word of warning: Don't start this book at bedtime if you intend to get any sleep because you won't want to set it down until you reach the last page.
What I Liked:
- The playful and flirtatious romance! Since this book is about a girl who senses dead bodies and gets entangled in a serial killer investigation, I expected creepy suspense from this novel (and it delivered). But I did NOT expect the completely intoxicating romance! Violet's crush on her best friend leaves her distracted by his casual touch, flustered by his comforting, familiar scent, and blushing at his every teasing grin. The romance is sweet, sexy, and believable. If you adore best-friend love stories, this book is definitely for you!
- Violet is a well-rounded teenager. She isn't defined solely by her unique body-finding ability or by her relationship with Jay. She interacts with her parents, goes shopping with friends, babysits for her aunt and uncle, feels the sting of social rivalries at school, and finds herself frustratingly focused on her changing feelings toward her best friend. She also handles her paranormal talent well, deals with social pressures responsibly, and stands up to her best friend when he seems over-protective or demanding. She makes her own decisions at every turn.
- Violet has a healthy self-image. To pull a line directly from the text (p.122): "She never wanted to be one of those girls who looked for flaws, picking themselves apart with unjust criticisms." I really enjoyed that about Violet's personality. She isn't arrogant and she isn't totally free of insecurities, but she is self-confident and relatively comfortable in her own skin.
- Jay is a good guy. He is kind and thoughtful. He genuinely cares about Violet and is not afraid to show it. He is funny and sweet, and he and Violet have basically been inseparable since the first grade. Since Jay has been her constant companion for so long, it makes sense that he feels and acts protective at times, and Violet's specific situation truly does warrant a lot of caution. I found Jay's protective nature endearing, and I like that he listens to Violet (who isn't shy about calling him out on his missteps & won't tolerate being bossed around). I seriously adored Jay!
- The chapters from the killer's point of view are used to excellent effect and will leave readers nervous to be out alone at night.
- This is a romantic thriller that can be enjoyed by teens and adults alike. Although it involves disturbing abductions and murders, it is never gory or graphic. The romantic scenes are steamy enough to have readers running to turn up their air conditioners, but they are not graphic either. Both the suspense and the romantic tension remain PG-13, yet the frightening moments are still chillingly scary and the romantic moments are still deliciously sexy.
- Violet's parents care about her and are present in her everyday life. That may sound like an unusual thing to comment on, but it is surprising how often a YA protagonist's parents are dead, drug-addicted, missing, abusive, totally oblivious, or otherwise excluded from the plot.
- The overall high school atmosphere rang true, as did the intensity and all-consuming nature of Violet's newly-discovered feelings for her best friend. Readers will feel Violet's excitement and nervousness & will fall for Jay right along with her.
What I Wished:
- This is probably only because I've read too many mystery novels and watched too many suspenseful thrillers over the years, but I wanted the manhunt and the investigative aspect of the plot to take center stage a little more often. In the final third of the book, I wondered what the police and FBI were discovering while we were following Violet, and I wanted a few more twists and turns in the investigation.
- I wanted more. I have no complaints about the way this novel ended, and I was pleased to see the suspenseful elements of the plot thoroughly wrapped up. But I wasn't quite ready to close the book on the main characters yet. I look forward to re-reading The Body Finder, and I wish we didn't have to wait until next year to read Kimberly Derting's next book.
If you are looking for a fast, suspenseful read with believable characters and a sweet romance, I would definitely recommend The Body Finder. I was impressed by the well-paced balance between the frightening serial killer mystery and the sweet love story. It is pretty rare to find a book that is just as likely to give you pleasant, romantic dreams as it is to give you terrifying, serial killer nightmares. Readers who enjoy romantic YA novels like Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's Beautiful Creatures, Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely, and Claudia Gray's Evernight should pick up Kimberley Derting's The Body Finder. Fans of paranormal mystery novels like Charlaine Harris' Harper Connelly series, may also be interested in reading The Body Finder. I look forward to reading Kimberly Derting's next book, Desires of the Dead, which is due out in 2011. For more information about The Body Finder, please check out the trailer below & visit Kimberly Derting's website | blog | twitter.