Death and the Girl Next Door
St. Martin's Griffin / October 2, 2012 / $9.99 print & digital
Ten years ago, Lorelei's parents disappeared without a trace. Raised by her grandparents and leaning on the support of her best friends, Lorelei is finally beginning to accept the fact that her parents are never coming home. For Lorelei, life goes on.
High school is not quite as painful as she thinks it will be, and things are as normal as they can be. Until the day the school's designated loner, Cameron Lusk, begins to stalk her, turning up where she least expects it, standing outside her house in the dark, night after night. Things get even more complicated when a new guy—terrifying, tough, sexy Jared Kovach—comes to school. Cameron and Jared instantly despise each other and Lorelei seems to be the reason for their animosity. What does Jared know about her parents? Why does Cameron tell Jared he can't have Lorelei? And what will any of them do when Death comes knocking for real?
Death and the Girl Next Door is Darynda Jones's first foray into young adult, and with it she brings her flair for hilarious one-liners and snappy dialogue, intense paranormal romance, a touch of mystery, and an extraordinarily ordinary heroine with a larger-than-life role in the fate of mankind. The fact that this all takes place with teenagers in the halls of high school is the fun quirk that really makes this series special.
Lorelei McAlister is dealing with a lot. The 10-year anniversary of her parents' disappearance. Random visions that seem to have no meaning, but range from confusing to disturbing. A boy in her class who's taken to stalking her. The appearance of a new mysterious boy in town to whom she's instantly drawn. And two best friends to help her navigate it all.
Once Lorelei discovers that her classmate stalker Cameron and her new dream guy Jared are not-so-mortal enemies, and that she's at the center of it all, the story quickly picks up pace and unveils a deep history that goes back centuries and is full of prophets and angels, with ghosts, demons and a whole supernatural adventure. All this plus hormones, high school, and humor.
“Can you believe this?” I asked, my mind wandering back to Jared, to everything we'd learned so far. “The first guy I've ever really liked, and he could be some supernatural bringer of death. I should just give up.”
“Give up on boys?” Brooklyn said. “That'll be the day.”
“I should. I should just quit while I'm ahead.”
“Lor,” she said, crinkling her nose with skepticism, “you have to actually be ahead to quit while you're ahead. Besides, they're boys. They're big and clumsy. They're in a constant state of flux that makes them almost interesting. Why quit now?”
“Because she's tired of unrealized expectations and fruitless endeavors?” Glitch said, wiggling his brows.
I pretended to be appalled. “What are you talking about? My endeavors are totally fruity.”
The world-building tis complex, with vital questions still left unanswered that will no doubt be addressed in future books of the series. Jones does not shy away from dark topics or tough issues, and many of the scenes Lorelei, Jared, Cameron, Brooklyn, and Glitch—this group of colorful characters who find themselves reluctantly banding together—face are genuinely scary and heart-stopping. There are elements of Twilight, Harry Potter, and even The Time Traveler's Wife here, suggesting big things to come.
What I really enjoy is that this series turns the love triangle device on its head, as it doesn't go the tired route of two guys fighting over the girl. The battle between Cameron and Jared extends much farther and isn't romantic at all. In fact, a triangle may develop, but among other characters entirely, and this series could ultimately produce two very satisfying, separate love stories. At the heart of it all is the forbidden love between Lorelei and Jared:
“I don't want to be here, because my presence risks everything I care for. And yet, the thought of being anywhere else in the universe floods me with unbearable pain.”
While he said many things, I heard only one. “So, you do want to be here?”
I held my breath as he thought about his answer.
“More than anything.”
Darynda Jones' new series is wholly different from her previous work, less serial and more over-arching in its intricate mythology, but everything we love about paranormal romance is here, and the fact that it's young adult ultimately adds to its appeal.
Tiffany Tyer is a writer and editor who loves reading and analyzing all things romance. She also works as a vocalist, a tutor, and a non-profit ministry assistant, and she loves it that way. Her book reviews can be found at Happy Endings Reviews, a blog she co-founded.