The Body Finder (The Body Finder #1) by Kimberly Derting
Hardcover, 327 pages
Published: March 16th 2010 by Harper Collins Children's Books
Literary awards: YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults (2011), Chicago Public Library Best of the Best for Teens (2011)
Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes that the dead leave behind in the world... and the imprints that attach to their killers.
Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find the dead birds her cat had tired of playing with. But now that a serial killer has begun terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.
Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet on her quest to find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved to find herself hoping that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer... and becoming his prey herself.
I absolutely loved this book. I regret not instantly reading it months ago when I first bought the epub version during a sale. It incorporated several genres that I enjoy...romance, paranormal, crime, and mystery. The romantic aspect won me over more than anything. What can I say; I’m a sucker for romance.
Before I get into all the juicy romantic stuff, let me talk about the main thing that drives this series…Violet’s “ability”. As mentioned in the summary, Violet has the ability to sense the bodies of murdered people. She doesn't seek them out, they call to her. Each body has its own unique sound that resonates which only she can hear. She refers to it as an echo or an imprint. It started when she was a little girl, when she uncovered a dead girl while in the woods with her father. For the majority of her childhood she mostly found dead animals, so many that she created her own pet cemetery in her yard. But she doesn't only hear “echoes” of bodies; she also hears echoes of the bodies on the ones who murdered them. For example, she can’t around her cat after he has hunted because she can hear the echo of his prey on him. It is also difficult for her to be around some police officers and military men because ending a life is a downside to their profession. Each echo and imprint is as unique as a fingerprint. Her gift is a complete secret and no one completely understands where it came from or why she’s the only one who seems to have it. The only person who knows about it outside of her parents and her police chief uncle is her best friend Jay.
Ah Jay! What a character. He’s witty, tall, smart, strong, protective, and as of late, very popular with the girls at their high school. He lives with his mom (I believe she’s a single parent because there isn't much mention of his father), but spends almost every free moment with Violet. Platonically of course! Normally, Violet only looked at Jay as her goofy best friend and wouldn't care about his new popularity with the girls. However, something must have changed about Jay over the summer because, like the girls at school, she’s starting to view him differently too. She actually finds herself becoming jealous at all the new attention he’s getting. But she really shouldn't worry at all; he doesn't appear to be very interested in spending time with any other girl but Violet. But of course, they’re best friends; it’s perfectly normal, right? In the land of romantic YA novels, predictably it isn't so simple.
The murder/kidnapping of the young girls is the contemporary portion of the novel. Especially during the chapters when the predator is the narrator. The way he seeks out and lures in his victims is similar to many real-life news stories we unfortunately hear about often. Yet, when I first read the abductions, I found myself asking the same question many ask when they see some horror/thriller movies…why are these people so stupid? Don’t these girls know not to talk to or accept rides from strangers (a point even the predator wonders, even though it’s to his advantage that they don’t)? Their best defense in this novel is that they’re from a small town where the biggest crime is probably jaywalking, which is why the anxiety level of the town immediately went up after Violet discovered the first body. Be that as it may, the scenes the predator describes and the chase scenes are very active, suspenseful, and have you at the edge of your seat. Unfortunately, since the few secondary characters in this book aren't as defined as Jay and Violet, what few clues that are given do not lead you to any concrete guesses as to who the predator is. It is as big a mystery to us as it is them. If you‘re an avid reader of crime, thriller, mystery books as I am, the conclusion may not be a complete surprise to you. If you’re not, then it most definitely will be. I will say this…for someone who says she’s accustomed to woods and trails in her town, Violet sure does trip and fall a lot.
The relationship between Jay and Violet is the bright side of the novel. The fact that Jay and Violet were friends first adds to their romantic relationship. They already had a comfort level with each other that was boyfriend/girlfriend-like before they decided to go beyond friendship (i.e., holding hands). Even after they officially get together, they still have those casual, playful buddy moments that are funny and adorable. They know each other so well that they know what the other is thinking without one word being uttered.
Their hooking up was predictable, as most books like this are. As Jay put it, they were going to get together eventually; it was just a matter of time. Everyone saw it…everyone except Violet, that is. We know about Violet’s changing feelings because she tells us, but Jay’s feelings were just as obvious. It was evident that he was willing to do anything for Violet and only had eyes for her. Even as the line of girls interested in him grew, he only wanted to spend time with Violet and seemed to get a bigger rise out of bragging to her about it than from getting the attention to begin with. He’d be polite to his “fan club”, all the while looking over his shoulder to see where Violet was.
What wasn't immediately predictable was how electrifying their relationship would be once it finally happened. At first it’s very romantic and sweet and then the temperature between them shot up about 100 degrees two chapters later. And it’s only a nice surprise for us, but for them as well. Fortunately, they still keep their heads about them and are able to reign in the physical activity so that book remains suitable for teens as young as 14.
I strongly recommend this book and I will definitely be continuing the series. The next book is Desires of the Dead and my copy included and excerpt from it. It promises to be just as good.