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Book Review: No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale

Friendship, Wisconsin is a quirky little town.  And completely safe, at least that is what everyone thought before Ruth’s body showed up in a corn field looking remarkably like a creeptastic scarecrow.  Now the town is on edge, and the police are definitely in above their heads trying to solve this grisly murder.  But Ruth’s best friend, Kippy, won’t rest until she figures out who killed her BFF.  Armed only with Ruth’s diary, and engaging in a lot of breaking and entering, Kippy sets out on her mission.  But she might not like the truth that she learns about her town when she peels back its darker layers.

In the beginning, I was completely hooked on this book.  It’s a grisly opening scene and you can’t help but want to know the whodunnit and why.  But somewhere in the middle, the book kind of starts to spiral out of control.  Much like the movie Fargo, Friendship is presented as a quirky little town full of quirky characters with lots of super precious quirks, and some really dark ones.  I didn’t overuse the term quirk there, there are a lot of quirks involved here.  It mostly works, but it does sometimes get a little, shall we say, precious.  And distracting.  And a smidge over the top annoying. But just a smidge, and others will definitely like it as it will definitely be a matter of personal taste and preference.

In the end, the whodunnit and why is a complete shocker.  Slightly underdeveloped, in part because the author seems to be going for the shocking twist.  And although I was completely shocked – even though looking back there were a few clues – I wasn’t necessarily completely satisfied, though I was a lot heartbroken.  And the how and why of it does work once you put all the pieces together.

Having said all of that, I do have to say that I think this is a very engaging mystery.  Kippy herself is an interesting young lady who is presented as having a long history of loss and grief issues as well as some quirky ways of handling her emotions.  The revelations in Ruth’s diary present a fairly complex portrait of friendship and the juxtaposition between outward behaviors and inner thoughts.  Kippy goes on a very emotional journey through both the revelations in Ruth’s diary and learning more about her town.  And it is a very interesting look at small town life.  Some of it veers into the absurd, particularly when Kippy is first committed into a facility and breaks out of it with a merry band of misfits, but even this absurdity has its charms.  There are lots of interesting nuggets here, and it is compulsively readable.

This is a fun whodunnit for those who want a little quirk in their murder mysteries, think Carl Hiaasen.  Kippy’s dad gets bonus points for being an engaged and attentive father, and part of the story.  There is some drug and sexual activity references, for those who need to know.  Recommended, I give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

Released in January from HarperTeen.  ISBN: 9780062211194