Thursday, March 20, 2014

[Review: Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell]

"Dear Killer"
Author: Katherine Ewell
Series: None
Pages: 368
Genre: YA, Thriller, Horror
Date Published: April 1st, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Format Read: eARC provided by publisher (via Edelweiss) for honest review


Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.
Rule Two—Be careful.
Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.
Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.
Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Katherine Ewell’s Dear Killer is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe.

My Thoughts:

An Open Letter To Dear Killer,

Book, you leave me feeling queasy and confused.  For some reason, going into you I thought you were about a teenage vigilante, but what you gave me was something completely different.  You took me into the mind of a serial killer.  A 17 year old serial killer and then you let me watch as she justified her murderous actions.  I don't think I liked you very much.  But I don't think that I was supposed to.  I think I was supposed to feel like I do and I'm still not sure how I feel about that...

-The White Unicorn 

Dear Killer really had a lot going for it.  It's a premise that hasn't really been touched in YA lit before.  I mean sure there are books with serial killers in them, but they are always told through the eyes of the good guys.  The ones who are trying to save people from murder.  Ewell gives us something else entirely.  She gives us a protagonist who is the murderer and tries to take us into this young girls mind as she commits the "perfect murders" that she's so famous for.  

This book is off putting and I had a really hard time connecting with Kit, because no matter how hard I tried to understand her, I just couldn't do it.  She has no moral compass.  It makes the story work, but it makes you strongly dislike her as the main character.  It was interesting because it was easy to understand why Kit was the way she was, but it didn't make it any easier to swallow.  Honestly (I could be wrong) I think that is what Ewell set out to do, and if I'm right then she deserves a standing o for creeping me the hell out.

The feeling you get while reading this book is the same as watching a movie like The Strangers.  You know things like this happen and it makes you sick to your stomach and yet, you can't look away from what is happening on screen.  This book is coined as a thriller, but I'd say that it also has a strong horror element.  And just like most horror flicks, it has it's issues.  Things go a little too easy for the killer and the rest of the people around her aren't the smartest people on the planet.  You look at it and you can easily see that if the people in Kit's life opened their eyes and used the brain cells they were given she wouldn't have lasted as long as she did, or killed as many people.

Kit's mother wasn't the best parental figure.  Nope, she taught her daughter to be a stone cold killer and in the moments where Kit starts to doubt that what she's doing is right, her mother steps in and tells her that she needs to kill in order to make people fear which will bring them all together.  Her dad isn't around much.  She makes friends with one of her future victims and builds this wonderful relationship that you think might help turn Kit around, even if Maggie is slightly off her rocker.  Seriously, she flips back and forth between different persona's.

I actually really liked Alex.  He's the cop that Kit befriends early on in the book.  Their relationship is a really interesting one.  But like I said before, he's the one who needed to open his eyes.  The answer to the Perfect Killer case was right in front of him and he didn't even know it.  *shakes head in disbelief*  

One more thing that I didn't love about this book is that the book takes place in London (I love London, that's not the issue).  I don't know if things got switched up when this book was edited for the US, but it irritated me that they didn't stick to English slang.  They called Tennis Shoes Tennis Shoes instead of Trainers and Alex orders a Pepsi, when it's well known that the UK favors Coke.  I know this is just a little thing, but as someone who loves England it seemed wrong that everything was so American, even when the setting was London.  

In the end I think that Ewell has a really exciting writing future before her.  Sure, I might not have loved Dear Killer, but it did have it strong moments and the fact that Ewell is only 18 makes me think that she has bigger and better things coming in the future.  Also, I wouldn't mind if she wrote a book with a character who knew the difference between right and wrong.

   2 Unicorns = It was okay, but something just didn't work for me!


Nicole said...

Very well said for this book. My feelings are a jumbled mess. I think I feel very similarly to how you do, you just said it a lot better. I was intrigued by this book. I liked feeling disturbed by Kit. I think the moral nihilism was really really interested even if I will never understand it. But then everything else didn't really come together for me. And I think I kept reading because I was puzzled and I wanted to solve this book, rather than because I was enjoying it. I don't know if I am making sense...

Jessica R said...

Hmm. I don't think you're the only one who felt like this and it's making me question how much I want to read this one. It seems like there's a lot of potential here but that it could have used better crafting. I mean, there's no way everyone else in the story is that thick that they just can't figure it out. And the lack of British slang despite being set it London is something that should have been picked up on too. Bummer. But great review, Christianna!