Tuesday, June 2, 2015

No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale

Aside from Wendelin Van Draanen's Sammy Keyes mystery series, which is aimed at slightly younger readers (middle grade rather than high school) I can't think of too many YA mystery novels of the whodunnit variety. Kathleen Hale's No One Else Can Have You is a fantastic YA mystery, and Hale gained notoriety in 2014 for more than just her first novel. In an article for The Guardian, Hale admitted to tracking down and stalking a critic, who gave her book one star on GoodReads. The fallout led to the creation of the Twitter hashtag #HaleNo, as other authors, bloggers, and readers responded to Hale's article. Hale is originally from Wisconsin, and is engaged to the hilarious writer Simon Rich. 

No One Else Can Have You is firmly in the same category as Fargo, the 1996 film directed by the Coen brothers, and the 2014 reboot, a TV show on FX. Even the cover art bears similarity to both the movie and TV posters, knit detail of the title and the implication of murder. The novel is set in Friendship, Wisconsin, and the dialogue is peppered with "you betchas" and "doncha knows."

Kippy Bushman is the sixteen-year-old detective in the novel, and her quirky and abrasive personality means that she is probably not the best person to investigate the murder of Ruth Fried. Ruth was found in a corn field behind Kippy's house, murdered in a gruesome and horrific way. She was on her way to Kippy's house for a sleepover - the two were best friends. 

After Ruth's death, Kippy is given her diary with the job of censoring it for Ruth's mother. Basically, this means taking a Sharpie marker to any parts that allude to Ruth's sexual history. After transcribing a few messily- written entries, Kippy finds that she'd have to Sharpie through most of the diary in order to do a sufficient job. 

But Kippy also finds out that maybe Ruth didn't like her as much as she always thought she did. Many of the diary entries focus on Kippy as Ruth writes, "Kippy is so pathetic it makes me nauseous…If we lived anywhere else, like any place remotely interesting, I'd have way more options, and she and I wouldn't even know each other." Police sheriff Staake (pronounced "Steakey") immediately pins the murder on Ruth's boyfriend Colt, but Kippy thinks that's mostly because of the fact that Colt slept with the sheriff's daughter. Kippy ends up teaming up with Ruth's brother Davey, who is just back from fighting in Afghanistan, to find the real murderer. 

There are tons of laugh-out-loud lines in No One Else Can Have You. Kippy is a truly fantastic narrator and even the secondary characters add something great to the story. For instance, Kippy's dad Dom, a middle school counsellor who lounges around the house in bathrobes, even when Kippy has company. When Kippy requests a salad for supper, Dom's at a loss for how to make one (Friendship is a hunting town, and everyone has freezers full of meat). He throws a bunch of almost-veggies into a bowl: "First bacon bits, which we usually use on our baked potatoes, then cheese - lots of shredded cheese. He rips open a bag of frozen peas with his teeth, then goes to the pantry and gets canned tomatoes, and dumps those in, too. Before you can say 'Gross,' he puts the whole thing in the microwave, beeps in five minutes, then turns around with his arms crossed, looking proud." Even the Fried's dogs are characters, "some kind of Great Dane/Saint Bernard/werewolf hybrid." Kippy remembers, "the first time I came over, we pulled up in Mrs. Fried's truck, and my first thought upon seeing them was 'We might not be able to kill those things with the car.' I envisioned them bouncing off the fender, getting up, cracking their knuckles, and then diving through the windshield to eat our necks." Their names are Pasta Batman and Marco Baseball, causing Ruth to quietly explain to Kippy, "Davey and I named them when we were so young we were still a little bit retarded."

There was only one place where the novels lost me, when Kippy is placed in a mental institution with a third of the novel left. It seemed like a placeholder to press pause on the narrative, delaying the reveal of the murderer. But overall, No One Else Can Have You is a great YA mystery, with an unforgettable narrator in Kippy Bushman. 

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