M. T. should be living a fairy tale story of a life. To everyone else it probably seems like she is with her good grades that can make her Valedictori...moreM. T. should be living a fairy tale story of a life. To everyone else it probably seems like she is with her good grades that can make her Valedictorian, the trip she is organizing for the National Honor Society, and her picture perfect best friend with her good looks and fancy house.
M. T. even looks the part with her blonde hair and light complexion.
The only problem is that the story is a lie.
M. T. is an undocumented immigrant--the same as her mother and father. It was easy to blend in before. But now the future is uncertain. M. T. isn't sure what happens next except that it probably won't include college or anything resembling a happy family.
With everything starting to unravel M. T. is lost and unsure how to find her way back in The Secret Side of Empty (2014) by Maria E. Andreu.
The Secret Side of Empty is Andreu's first novel. It draws on her own experiences growing up as an undocumented immigrant in America.
This debut is an important novel that shines a light on an aspect of American life that few people rarely see. M. T. is in a desperate position caught between the country where she legally belongs and the country that has been home for most of her life.
Andreu expertly captures the push and pull M. T. feels between thinking of herself as an American and the underlying reason she knows she is nothing like her American friends. This already multi-layered story is further complicated with M. T.'s troubled home life and her own drastic plan for coping.
The Secret Side of Empty is a compelling and timely read as well as a much needed addition to the larger conversation about the immigrant experience.
Possible Pairings: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Drown by Junot Diaz, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga, Stealing Henry by Carolyn MacCullough, Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta, A Step From Heaven by An Na, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
*This book was acquired for review from the publisher*(less)
Jasper "Jazz" Dent is used to being an outsider in the small town of Lobo's Nod. It's kind of the only choice when your dad is arrested after a commit...moreJasper "Jazz" Dent is used to being an outsider in the small town of Lobo's Nod. It's kind of the only choice when your dad is arrested after a committing a string of horrific murders that number in the triple digits.
It's kind of the only choice when Jazz isn't entirely convinced he can be anything but what "Dear Old Dad" trained Jazz to be right up until his arrest.
Jazz might not know much about how to act like a regular human being most of the time. But he definitely knows serial killers. When a dead body is found in an isolated field, Jazz is certain that Lobo's Nod has another killer in the town's midst.
The problem is that no one believes Jazz. Even when more bodies show up. Even when they may or may not start wondering if Jazz might know more than he's letting on in I Hunt Killers (2012) by Barry Lyga.
I Hunt Killers is the first in Lyga's Jasper Dent Series which continues in Game.
Lyga, in any genre or capacity, is an excellent writer. His debut The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl is fantastic and Boy Toy is as heartbreaking as it is stunning. Lyga always brings a lot of skill and enthusiasm to his subjects which comes through in the writing and his (well-researched) expertise with each subject.
The problem with I Hunt Killers is that it involves a very narrow subject: serial killers.
Readers who enjoy being scared or horrified will love this book. It is gory and gritty and there are tons of dead bodies as would be expected in any quality thriller. Jazz's desperate efforts to be a better person than his father add another dimension to the plot and help elevate I Hunt Killers above a cheap thrill with lots of blood. It has the same substance that I would imagine draws fans to both Dexter (in book or TV form) and The Following.
That said, this book is clearly not for everyone. Most of the story focuses on Jazz but there are brief chapters from a killer's perspective and fragmented flashbacks to Jazz's childhood "lessons" from his father. Definitely not for the faint of heart.
Jazz is a very well-realized character. He is flawed and broken as well as being very multi-faceted. Despite--or maybe because of--his past, readers can't help identifying with Jazz and cheering him on. Will he become exactly who his father groomer him to be? Will he transcend that and become something better? It's not always clear. But Jazz's internal struggle with those very questions is what makes him so very interesting.
Unfortunately, none of the other characters in I Hunt Killers are quite as exciting. Howie is a goofy but likeable sidekick who often comes across as cartoonish (as intended it seems but still a caricature). Meanwhile all of the female characters, such as they are, come across as shockingly one-dimensional. There is a possibility that this has to do with Jazz's warped upbringing and his father's brainwashing, although the fact remains that it's disappointing when an otherwise strong book has weak characters.
The plotting is admirable and will keep most readers guessing (not to mention on the edge of their seats). While this book is an excellent mystery, there is a decided lack of closure. I Hunt Killers is an entertaining read but it is very gory and extremely serialized with a lack of closure that is largely unsatisfying. Make of that what you will.
Possible Pairings: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson, Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, Legend by Marie Lu, Proxy by Alex London, Black City by Elizabeth Richards, Vicious by V. E. Schwab, Dexter, The Following(less)