If you read Monday's round-up of YA Serial Killer books , or have read a lot of these books yourself, you know that in most YA serial killer books, girls are typically the sleuths or the victims, not the killers. But this spring brings not one but two books about teenage girl serial killers. Each of these books has some credibility issues (something I'll discuss in greater depth on Thursday) but I also think you could argue they also represent differing fantasies of female power. First, I'll give you my take on each one, and then I will Compare and Contrast these two teen serial killers.
by Katherine Ewell
To be published by Katherine Tegen Books
on April 1, 2014
Source: Thanks to Harper for allowing me to read an advance copy of this book for review purposes.
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.
My (mini) take: When I first started this book, I was convinced that, based on the publication date, it was an April Fool's joke. Teenage killer Kit operates in Serial Killer Fantasyland, a place where the police are idiots, victims can be killed with a single magical karate chop, and all pesky forensic evidence is whisked away on a sparkly pink breeze. If you don't mind spoilers, I get into more details in my Goodreads review, but let's just say that this book's plotholes have plotholes.
However, I'm actually glad I stuck with this book, because it did improve for me. And in the end, I think you can argue that while Dear Killer does not work as a thriller, it is interesting as a Nietzschean examination of good and evil and moral relativism, all bundled up in a crazy female wish fulfillment story about being vengeful and all-powerful. I mean, if you could do whatever you want and get away with it ... would you? (I wouldn't, but it's sometimes fun to think about it.)
by S. E. Green
To be published on May 6, 2014
by Simon Pulse
Source: giveaway at ALA.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Lane is a typical teenager. Loving family. Good grades. Afterschool job at the local animal hospital. Martial arts enthusiast. But her secret obsession is studying serial killers. She understands them, knows what makes them tick. Why? Because she might be one herself. Lane channels her dark impulses by hunting criminals—delivering justice when the law fails. The vigilantism stops shy of murder. But with each visceral rush the line of self-control blurs. And then a young preschool teacher goes missing. Only to return... in parts. When Lane excitedly gets involved in the hunt for “the Decapitator,” the vicious serial murderer that has come to her hometown, she gets dangerously caught up in a web of lies about her birth dad and her own dark past. And once the Decapitator contacts Lane directly, Lane knows she is no longer invisible or safe. Now she needs to use her unique talents to find the true killer’s identity before she—or someone she loves—becomes the next victim...My (mini) take: Killer Instinct started out strong for me and then went right off the rails. On the plus side, there is more attention paid in this book to things like forensic evidence. Lane's parents work for the FBI, so she knows more about murder and serial killers than your average teenager. Deep down, she's worried that there's something wrong with her, so she studies serial killers in her spare time. When a real serial killer called the Decapitator starts sending her creepy messages, she's both scared and fascinated. Cool, yes?
Yes. And then ... not so much. Killer Instinct did keep me guessing about the identity of the Decapitator until the very end. But there were other things that I found troubling, things that seemed there just for shock value. I'm fine with the inclusion of sex in YA, but three of the book's main female characters -- Lane, her sister Daisy, and another girl, Belinda -- were hypersexualized to a degree that felt gratuitious to me. Yes, adolescence is a time when girls learn about some of the ways sex and power can be intertwined, and I would have welcomed an examination of that in a book like this. Instead, these girls use sex to intimidate and bully. Perhaps the point of this book was that girls can be sexual predators too? Point made, I guess, but in the category of "teens who think they might have dark and twisted urges and are interested in the connections between sex and violence," I think that the I Hunt Killers books by Barry Lyga are smarter and more interesting.
Compare and Contrast:
Spies, Alter Egos and Serial Killers week continues! Stop by on Thursday for a Serial Killer Trends post and on Friday for another serial killer-themed giveaway! You know you can't resist :)