HOW TO EXPERIENCE DEATH FOR BEGINNERS by Jessica  Branton

HOW TO EXPERIENCE DEATH FOR BEGINNERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut YA paranormal novel, a clairvoyant teenage girl tries to hunt down a serial killer.

Ten years ago, when Casey Darling was 7 years old, she was overwhelmed with a sudden, vivid vision of her father dying in a car accident. Not only that, she experienced her dad’s terrifying death with him, together with his final memories and last regrets. Ever since, Casey has unwillingly experienced others’ final moments in the same striking way. Her twin sister, Christina, coped with the trauma of their father’s death by developing selective mutism, and their mother spiraled into alcoholism, leaving Casey to take on many family responsibilities. Casey avoids all but a small group of close cohorts, so when Cameron, a new student in their Cartersville, Georgia, school, pursues her friendship, her first concern is how to make him stop, despite his California golden-boy looks and confidence. But when her clairvoyance shows Cameron cutting his own wrist—the first time her ability doesn’t display a death—she wants to help him. At the same time, Casey begins experiencing terrifying murders committed by a masked serial killer with cold blue eyes—and one of his victims is a friend. Casey’s attempts to track the culprit bring her under suspicion, but she’ll need to gain the trust of law enforcement to stop him. Meanwhile, old family secrets come to light. In her novel, Branton combines YA romance, the paranormal, and a madman-on-the-loose plot to good dramatic effect. Casey and her circle of friends are well-drawn, with an effective balance of personalities, including a popular and confident bisexual boy. Christina becomes important to the story in unexpected ways that add interest and suspense. Nevertheless, the author does sometimes overdo the melodrama: “December appeared, shaking the trees into their shocking state of bareness.” And some plot obstacles don’t work well: Casey’s refusal to disclose her ability drags on a bit; teenagers make bad decisions even for teenagers; and no one would go to jail for leaving the scene of an accident while being pursued by a psycho killer.

A few stumbles but a solid and multilayered thriller.

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-9997510-2-2
Page count: 220pp
Publisher: Charlie's Port Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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