Saturday, February 4, 2012

Book Review: The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Finished: January 16, 2012
Pages: 336 (Ebook)
Add It: Goodreads
Series: The Body Finder (#1)
Publisher: HarperTeen

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 that 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 the dead birds her cat had tired of playing with. But now that a serial killer has begun terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him. Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet on her quest to find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved to find herself hoping 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.

Quote: “Multihued light radiated up from beneath the water, centered among the reeds, and then diffusing outward as it reached the surface. Violet had never seen anything like it, and she knew that the spectrum of light was defying its very nature by behaving in that way.

It could only be one thing.

There was something dead down there.”

Cover Love: I do like the covers of this series. I think they are simple and creepy enough to match the book. I only wish the contents measured up.

Thoughts: The Body Finder is an unfortunate example of wasted potential. I am sad to say that, because I feel that Kimberly Derting throws out some great ideas, ones that could have been amazing, but inevitably fell short and got buried under a nauseating romantic plot and a sea of characters who were nothing more than stereotypes.

I loved the beginning of the novel. We start off with a young Violet finding the body of a dead child. If the whole story had followed in the footsteps of the prologue/first chapter I would have loved it. Violet's ability to find dead bodies isn't exactly a new concept but I thought the way in which she did it was very neat. Dead bodies came to Violet as an echo. The echo represented their life and death. It could attack any one of Violet's senses. She might hear the sound of fireworks, smell strong coffee or feel the touch of downy feathers on her skin. She could also sense death on others as an imprint. It was difficult for Violet to even be around her cat; since he carried the imprints of the creatures he'd killed.

I also found the murder investigation to be entertaining despite being a bit predictable. I read the majority of this novel in one sitting and was completely engrossed by the chapters in which Violet uses her ability to try to catch a killer. I also liked the included chapters from the killer's perspective. Unfortunately, I envisioned several endings that would have been more shocking than where the story actually went. I also didn't like the attempts to trick the reader into thinking something, because it was rather obvious that it was being done, so I didn't suspect it was true. I think that if these risks were actually taken with the story (specifically a trick played near the end) it would have made for a more gripping read.

My main gripe with this novel is the relationship between Violet and Jay. Honestly, they did not have personalities outside of each other. It was yet another situation in which the lead male is being fawned all over by every girl in his vicinity, but of course he only has eyes for our awkward heroine who couldn't possibly understand what he could see in her. Not only was it annoying that all of the other female characters in the novel apparently lost all sense of themselves when Jay was in the room and only cared about fighting other girls for his affections (ugh); it was also annoying that Violet inwardly mocked these girls and then turned around and did the exact same thing herself. She was constantly thinking about melting and how hot/sexy/attractive Jay had gotten since going through the apparently magical process of puberty.

In connection with this, I also didn't appreciate the treatment of Lissie Adams in this story. She is Violet's "competition" for Jay. She is referred to as "shallow and boring" and "just another brainless cheerleader" and given no depth beyond being the obvious bitch stereotype ready to claw Violet's eyes out to get to Jay. Is this really all we want women characters to amount to in novels? It's also said that she is a "slut" and she "gives it up to all the guys" and goes by the nickname "kneepads". This is a conversation being had at a table of girls. Was this necessary? I don't agree with slut shaming and I don't see what purpose this cattyness served for the novel. Jay, of course, can just cast this girl aside very rudely for Violet and it's viewed as ok, romantic even, because she is a bitch/slut/walking talking bag of evil. He even says that he was using her to make Violet jealous so she would realize he liked her. Um, couldn't he have just... I don't know... told her he liked her? Too simple, Jay? Too direct? Not enough casualties involved?

There is also a "friend" of Violet's whose only purpose is to be the "stupid" friend who never gets anyone's jokes and doesn't understand anything. At one point another "friend" of Violet's jokes to the girl that she must ride the short bus. Nothing like a good dose of ableism on top of all of that slut shaming. There was also a situation where one girl was to said to like to play the "bi-curious card" even though she was like SO TOTALLY STRAIGHT (as if it would be weird if she weren't) and all of the other girls would yell "Gross!" in response to her fake advances. One of the girls is even said to be homophobic. The only reason this book is getting rated a two by me is because I enjoyed the serial killer plot, and I thought the idea of echos and imprints was very original. Too bad the rest of the novel brought such an interesting concept down to its level in the dumpster of stereotypes and offensive tropes.

Recommendation: I would not recommend this book to others. In my opinion there are better offerings in the YA genre that are worth more notice and less offensive. If you like something darker you might try My Soul to Take (also guilty of a few offenses mentioned here but not to the degree of The Body Finder) or Fracture.


Two out of Five Coffees

The Body Finder is on sale now in paperback. You can purchase it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository and other retailers. The sequel, Desires of the Dead, is also on sale now. The third book in the series, The Last Echo, will be released April 17, 2012.

Extras: Want to check out some different perspectives on The Body Finder? Find other reviews at Novel Novice and Words Like Silver.


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