Thursday, April 14, 2016


"You're probably wondering what kind of person would let her father die alone for two hundred dollars. But my father shot and nearly killed a convenience store owner for a lot less than that - and a carton of cigarettes."

Ten years ago, a serial killer was on the loose in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa and her best friend Callie were seven years old when their eyewitness accounts of a crime that hit close to home sent the Ohio River Monster to death row.

Tessa's life was less than stellar, and it only worsened after the Monster went to jail. Abandoned by her beloved sister and troubled mother, her father in prison, Tessa was sent to Florida to live with a grandmother she'd never met. She lost touch with Callie, due to the distance created by geography and the fact that they never discussed what really happened "that night."

When Tessa returns to Fayette to visit her dying father, all the loose ends of her past are forced into her present. Are her sister and mother still nearby? If so, why didn't they contact her? Why did her sister leave? Is Callie so messed up because she's questioning their recounting of the events of ten years ago? Is the wrong man in jail? Is Tessa's father connected to the killings?

Kara Thomas' YA thriller The Darkest Corners delves into these and other mysteries surrounding Tessa's past. When another girl is murdered shortly after Tessa's arrival back in Fayette, Tessa and Callie have to decide how to deal with doubts about their testimony and the fact that the real killer might still be at large.

Although hampered a bit by multiple mystery arcs (see all the questions above and add a few), The Darkest Corners held my interest to the end. I thought the teens, their actions, and relationships were well drawn, and I felt  empathy for Tessa and Callie.

There are few things with a greater potential to be annoying than teenagers taking on the investigation of a serial killer (or any crime, really; maybe even just teenagers period). Obviously, for the sake of the story some envelopes needed pushing, but thankfully, Thomas mostly avoids having her teen characters take actions that are too far-fetched.

I found the ultimate reveal to be pretty satisfying, though it did take a couple of eye-rolling turns to get there. I can't imagine the kind of cellphone case one would have to own in order for it to be recognized while held to one's ear in a dark car by someone well outside said dark car. Maybe it's just me (or some serious bedazzling), but that and a few other moments (including a murder conveniently occurring after a ten year gap just when Tessa returns to town) kept this from being a four-star read.

I enjoyed it, it flowed well, I was invested in the characters and their struggles. As a "far-from-teen," I'm not the target audience for this work. I think it will have a wide appeal with younger readers and I appreciate the fact that it highlighted smart and strong female characters.

STREET SENSE: A solid YA mystery/suspense thriller with a satisfying reveal. The Darkest Corners will appeal to those who enjoy family and friend drama, themes of teens in distress and in investigation mode, serial killer stories, and who don't mind a few convenient plot turns.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE:  When I think of my old neighborhood, I think of anger. Of crumbling town houses squashed together so tightly, you can see right into your neighbor's kitchen. I think of angry old men on their porches, complaining about the cable company or the Democrats or their social security checks not arriving on time.

COVER NERD SAYS:  There's always a danger, in my mind, in putting a large photograph of a person's face on  your cover. I think people have more varied, and maybe even stronger, reactions to faces more than other art. (Does it remind them of someone they love? A former foe?) I also think readers like to picture their own characters. I'm obviously picking a nit here and maybe it's mine alone. I did like the visual of this cover, particularly the picture looking like it's been torn apart and pieced back together (a bit of a plot parallel). I like the tag-line and the fonts. They don't make me say wow, but they certainly did their job, I picked up the book.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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