Kiss Me, Kill Me is the first book in the Scarlett Wakefield series, by Lauren Henderson (book 3 is due out in April). Kiss Me, Kill Me is that relatively rare entity - a nonparanormal mystery, aimed at teenage girls. The premise is fairly well-known at this point, so I won't worry about spoilers for the early part of the book.
Scarlett is thrilled when she's unexpectedly invited to a popular girl's party (though she has to let down her fellow-gymnast friends to accomplish this). She's even more thrilled when her long-time crush, Dan McAndrew, notices her, and ends up kissing her on a moonlit terrace. Scarlett is thrilled right up until the point where Dan dies in her arms. After that, her life is changed forever.
Scarlett is a likable heroine placed in a tough situation. She's a teenage girl who prides herself on her physical strength (she's a dedicated gymnast). She has a toxic family, and little in the way of friends. As a reader, you want to help her, even as you admire her strength. She has a flair for description, too. For example:
"That's true of all the girls clustered round the fountain: they present themselves so well, like packages wrapped in bright shiny paper, tied up with inviting satin bows, sprigs of flowers carefully slipped under the ribbon...
If we were packages, we'd be wrapped in brown paper, very battered at the corners, tied up with fraying string. I don't think this contrast has ever hit me quite in the same way before." (Page 13-14)
I like that. Girls as packages, wrapped in different ways. It works.
I also enjoyed the UK setting in Kiss Me, Kill Me. Henderson uses various British colloquialisms - not so many that the book is impenetrable to the casual American reader, but enough to firmly place the story in England. ("Knackered", for example). There are also places where characters demonstrate their British temperaments - clearly different from what things would be like in, say, Los Angeles. For example:
"No one's going up to her, at least not yet: she's making such a racket that the more repressed Brits are embarrassed by they noise. It's not that they don't want to help, it's that they're afraid that approaching her will inevitably draw them into the Scene she's making, and one thing British people are really scared of is Being Involved in a Public Scene. It's very shameful in our culture." (Page 227, paperback edition)
I found Kiss Me, Kill Me to be a quick read, one that held my interest. Henderson includes interspersed journal entries by an unknown girl who has information that Scarlett doesn't. This helps ratchet up the suspense, and keep the pages turning. There were a couple of plot points that stretched credibility for me (like why Dan was so quickly interested in Scarlett in the first place, and why her two friends cut her out so ruthlessly after one incident). But these were quite minor. The reader should also be forewarned that parts of the mystery are left to solved in future books (though there is some resolution to this book).
Still, Kiss Me, Kill Me is an enticing read for teenage girls. I think that fans of the Gallagher Girls novels by Ally Carter will like Kiss Me, Kill Me (which is a bit more realistic than Carter's books), as will anyone interested in mysteries with a high school setting, and/or British boarding school novels. Recommended.
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