Estelle: Death & the Girl Next Door by Darynda Jones

Death and the Girl Next DoorDeath & the Girl Next Door by Darynda Jones
Book 1 of Darklight series (trilogy)
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 304
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: paranormal, missing parents, high school, forbidden love
Format read: ARC from Netgalley (Thanks!)

Summary: It’s coming upon the 10th anniversary since Lorelei’s parents vanished without a trace. With her sophomore year of high school underway, things get interesting when the hot and mysterious Jared shows up at school, and she realizes one of her fellow students is stalking her. Lorelei’s life is definitely about to change…

Loreli is pretty much your average teenager. She’s sarcastic, she has two great best friends (Brooklyn and Glitch) who she trades short jokes with and gets much support from, and lives with her adorable grandparents (I like Grandpa best!) who have taken her in since her parents’ disappearance.

But the similarities between Loreli and the reader pretty much end here.

She has a fellow classmate named Cameron following her. Loreli’s “quirk” is sparked when she bumps into Jared, a new kid at her school that she can’t take her eyes off of. Then there’s the fact that Cameron and Jared are like fire and ice when they are thrown into the same room together.

The big question is Why?

Jones has taken on an intriguing premise filled with angels and devils and heaven and hell, but unfortunately she may have been a bit over ambitious. For the most part, the novel is very slow-paced and there is a lack of the breadcrumbs placed throughout the story to move it along and build up to this satisfying climax. Instead big chunks of information are given to readers in various spots and the suspense and feeling of ohh-ahh discovery is lost.

While I did chuckle a few times at the exchanges between Loreli and her friends, their tone seemed mostly juvenile. I know they were only sophmores in high school, but when Jared seemed to embody the older tone and mannerisms of a Harlequin hunk, the difference was amplified even more.

Structurally, I keep wondering if this book would have worked better told from different POVs (Loreli, Jared, and Cameron) so readers could get more of a handle on this “secret” world, their ties to one another, and their individual histories. And character wise, I felt like the friendship between Loreli and her friends always trumped the romantical entanglements, when love was so central to the plot.

Even though paranormal isn’t a genre I frequently visit, I know that I can easily get swept up in a book with strong characters and a well-planned out plot line. I wished that had been the case here, but, instead, I felt like I was going through the motions without being invested in what was happening. And as the first in a three-book series, this doesn’t fare well for me to continue.

It hurts my heart to say it, but not every book can be a winner.

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