Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Publication Date: March 16th 2010
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.
(Highlight to view spoilers.)
Perhaps it was the immediate mental face palm that went with learning the protagonist was named Violet Ambrose (Violet Ambrose? really?!), or maybe it was the extreme implausability of much of the teen crime solving, but I finished The Body Finder feeling a little ho hum. It seems that, with this particular young adult genre, suspension of disbelief has to be applied more liberally to what would otherwise be regular contemporary settings; unless very well written, teens solving crimes just involves a certain amount of implausibility in the plot. And, though The Body Finder was at times sweet, interesting, and funny, it never really crossed over to "very well written" for me.
In all fairness, many of the crime solving aspects of the story that I found most implausible could potentially be explained away by the supernatural aspect to the story. If you are willing to accept -- in an otherwise contemporary setting -- that a young girl can sense dead bodies, it is just a small step forward to believe that a beloved uncle, who is also a cop, would choose to believe (and by extension cover up for) his niece. What could not be as easily dismissed are how many elements of the mystery weren't really part of the mystery at all, but rather answers dropped on the reader at the end. (Spoiler) How are you supposed to know that there are two killers when there is absolutely no foreshadowing indicating the possibility? It almost felt like a last-minute plot add on to extend the drama. And how are you supposed to have suspected anyone when neither suspect is ever actually revealed?! We are simply told this is how the story is resolved, never shown. I don't even think we ever learn the names of the killers. (End Spoiler)
I find it really interesting that much of what I started out loving about The Body Finder turned into the most disappointing elements of the book. Violet's parents (well, actually, her whole family) start out so unconditionally supportive and present in her life. Whatever may or may not happen outside of her family sphere, they all always believe her and work to make sure that she is protected at all costs. Which is why it is so odd that, when necessary to move the plot along, her parents just sort of check out. They become incredibly neglectful, almost ignoring her and what she is choosing to do.
I was also really disappointed to never delve deeper into the identity of the killer. When he first describes his "game" (p22), I was thrilled at the way it was written. It was disturbing, it was awful, it was chilling and creepy, but it was really well done. I would imagine it would be hard for any female (teen or adult) to read that passage without recognizing times, places and situations where we mark ourselves as easy victims; and it could maybe even help some teens to make some safer decisions in the future. However, the glimpses from the killers perspective never evolve beyond that moment. His perspective almost becomes a sock puppet.
Finally, one of the best written parts of the entire story was the subplot between Jay and Violet. I love that she falls for her best friend and becomes all awkward -- it is usually the other way around. I love Jay's sweetness, protectiveness, confidence, and humor. (Sort of Spoiler) And I absolutely adored how they eventually got together. (End Spoiler) However, I hated that she was such a strong, independent character until she entered into a relationship. She becomes that girl -- you know, the sort who suffers from "devastating loneliness" after a few hours without a text (p 205), and can't seem to make any decisions on her own anymore. (Spoiler) I also don't like that Jay ends up having to save her all the time, rather than her being resourceful enough to save herself. (End Spoiler)
The Body Finder also occasionally had a homophobic comment here and there that was just offensive enough to jar me out of the story. So, all in all The Body Finder had some problems that kept it from being an awesome read, but I still found it interesting enough to at least try the next book. (Though I also think that Derting wraps this installment up well enough that The Body Finder could work as a satisfying stand alone.)
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars ~ I liked it! I wouldn’t reread it, but I enjoyed it.
Review also appears on Goodreads; I purchased my copy for Nook from Barnes and Noble.