The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry

Bibliographic Citation:
Henry, A. (2016). The Girl I Used to Be. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Co. ISBN 978-1627793322.

april henry

(Image from Amazon.com)

Plot Summary:
Olivia aka Ariel’s mother was murdered when she was almost too young to remember. Most people thought her father did it and then disappeared. Fast forward fourteen years when some new evidence now shows that her father and mother were likely killed at the same time. Now Olivia works to uncover the truth. But can she piece it together before the killer finds her?

Analysis & Personal Opinion:
If you know me, you know crime is my thing. Murder? Yep, I’m interested. Okay, that sounds weird but still true. I’m not sure how this book sucked me in, but it did. I read it pretty fast because curiosity and suspense were taking over. I really liked it too, and I’ve recommended it to several of my students who are fans of crime and mystery.

Olivia/Ariel is your average character. I didn’t think she was too far fetched in her actions usually, and if I was in a similar situation then I might’ve acted the same way she did. Sometimes I felt like she asked too many questions and was either making herself look suspicious or obvious, but nonetheless it made for a good story. I haven’t read any other April Henry novels — I know, I know — where have I been — but now I want to! One of my coworkers today said, “Something terrible always happens to a kid in all of her books!” So now I’m curious.

Read if you like: suspense, crime, murder, mystery

Awards and Honors:

  • The ILA (International Literacy Association’s) Choice List
  • Edgar Award finalist
  • Anthony Award finalist
  • South Dakota high school award finalist
  • The Texas Lone Star reading list
  • The Banks Street Best Books list
  • Winner, Oregon Spirit Book Award
  • Best books of 2016 by Multnomah County Library.

Author Info:

April Henry is a New York Times-bestselling author of 21 mysteries for teens and adults. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her family.

Advertisements

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Bibliographic Citation:
Lyga, Barry. (2012). I Hunt Killers. New York, NY: Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316125840.

Image from Amazon.com (Click to redirect to site)

Image from Amazon.com
(Click to redirect to site)

Plot Summary:
Jasper “Jazz” Dent is the son of the world’s most prolific serial killer, Billy Dent. Four years after his father’s arrest another sequence of killings begins in his hometown by someone called The Impressionist. Jazz tries to stay a step ahead of the murderer while convincing himself that he isn’t a killer too — no matter who is dad is or what he knows. Jazz works with the police and tries to battle his own demons before they have another Billy Dent on their hands.

Critical Analysis:
I Hunt Killers is unlike many YA books in that it isn’t written from the point of view of the protagonist, but rather from a narrator’s perspective. As you read you’ll go back and forth between what is happening to and around Jazz to what is happening to and around The Impressionist. By not writing this book in first person, Lyga allows the reader to have some insight into the killer’s mind and plans. Even though the narrator guides you through what The Impressionist is doing at times, you do not lose any thrill or suspense. At times you are even more surprised than the characters themselves who didn’t have your knowledge. Jazz is, as one reviewer put it, chillingly charming (Clare). He has seen some bad things, he may have even done some bad things, but you can’t help but like him. Jazz knows he is a master manipulator, Jazz knows that he can work people and a situation to his advantage but you cheer for him anyway. You want Jazz to conquer his inner demons and come out on top, a confident young man who won’t become like his Dear Old Dad despite Billy’s best efforts.

I Hunt Killer is fantastic from start to finish. It isn’t formulaic in the slightest, I found myself pleasantly surprised with every mysterious twist because I thought I had it all figured out, but I didn’t. I wasn’t even close and I’m so glad. This novel closely follows most of the basic rules for mysteries, with one big exception. The actual murderer is never thought to be a suspect until the moment when you find out he is actually the killer. If Jazz or the police had suspected him from the beginning it would’ve seemed disingenuous. But no one suspected him and that is what made the ending so, so good.

The only weakness in this book is the lack of realism, and it isn’t really a weakness at all because without it there wouldn’t be a story. Jazz is a high school student whose father is a notorious murderer with kills into the triple-digits. The desperate local law enforcement actually allows him to assist in the solving of the crimes. They bring him to fresh crime scenes and he gets official copies of reports. This would never happen in a real life high profile serial killer case, but if it didn’t happen there wouldn’t really be a story here so you happily play along. Unrealistic elements are commonplace in mysteries, “they have almost nothing to do with real-life detection by police or private agents” (Nilsen, 2012, p. 245). In order to enjoy this book you have to suspend most of our disbelief and of course you will because you’ll love it and you’ll love Jazz.

 

References

Clare, C. (n.d.). Amazon.com: I hunt killers by barry lyga. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com

Nilsen, A., Blasingame, J., Donelson, K., & Nilsen, D. (2012). Literature for today’s young adults. (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson.